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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 the risk of paint fumes affecting your baby, you should avoid doing any painting and decorating while you're pregnant.

But if you choose to paint and decorate when you're pregnant, you can reduce any potential risks by:

  • not painting and decorating until at least week 13 of your pregnancy (any possible small risk there is to your baby would be greatest during weeks 0 to 12, as this is when your baby's organs start to develop)
  • using water-based paints instead of solvent-based ones and spray paints, which contain solvents
  • making sure any room you paint in is well ventilated by opening all windows or doors
  • wearing protective clothing like gloves, long trousers, face masks, long-sleeved tops, and goggles
  • not eating or drinking in the room you're decorating
  • washing your hands when you've finished painting so you do not accidentally swallow any of the decorating materials

Further information

Page last reviewed: 13 October 2023
Next review due: 13 October 2026