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Can paint fumes affect my unborn baby?

It's highly unlikely that painting or being around paint fumes while you're pregnant will harm your unborn baby, as the risk from most modern household paints is very low.

The risk of harm to your baby may be slightly greater from solvent-based paints and old paintwork, which may contain traces of lead. For this reason, you should avoid using solvent-based paints and stripping old paintwork while you're pregnant.

Reducing the risk

If you're concerned about this and want to eliminate the risk of paint fumes affecting your baby, you should avoid doing any painting and decorating while you're pregnant.

But if you do choose to do some painting and decorating, taking these steps can help reduce any potential risks:

  • Any small risk there is to your baby would be greatest during your first trimester (weeks 0-13), as this is when your baby's organs start to develop. So as a precaution, it's best to avoid painting and decorating until at least the 14th week of your pregnancy.
  • Use water-based paints instead of solvent-based ones and spray paints, which contain solvents.
  • Make sure any room you paint in is well-ventilated by opening all windows or doors.
  • Wear protective clothing like gloves, long trousers, face masks, long-sleeved tops, and potentially goggles.
  • Avoid drinking or eating in a room you're decorating, and wash your hands when you've finished painting so you don't accidentally swallow any of the decorating materials.

Further information:

Page last reviewed: 20/07/2017

Next review due: 20/07/2020