Emulsion-based paints are usually known as "deck paints" and are sold for home use. This article discusses the harmful effects from swallowing such paints or breathing in their fumes.
This is for information only and not for use in the treatment or management of an actual poison exposure. If you have an exposure, you should call your local emergency number (such as 911) or the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.
Emulsion-based "deck" paints are sold under various brand names.
Airways and lungs
Breathing difficulty (from inhalation)
Throat swelling (may also cause breathing difficulty)
Eyes, ears, nose, and throat
Severe pain in the throat
Severe pain or burning in the nose, eyes, ears, lips, or tongue
Abdominal pain -- severe
Burns of the esophagus (food pipe)
Vomiting, possibly bloody
Heart and blood
Loss of alertness
Seek immediate medical help. Do NOT make a person throw up unless told to do so by poison control or a health care professional.
If the chemical is on the skin or in the eyes, flush with lots of water for at least 15 minutes.
If the chemical was swallowed, immediately give the person water or milk, unless instructed otherwise by a health care provider. Do NOT give water or milk if the patient is having symptoms (such as vomiting, convulsions, or a decreased level of alertness) that make it hard to swallow.
If the person breathed in the poison, immediately move him or her to fresh air.
Before Calling Emergency
Determine the following information:
The patient's age, weight, and condition
Name of product (as well as the ingredients and strength, if known)
The time it was swallowed
The amount swallowed
Poison Control, or a local emergency number
The National Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) can be called from anywhere in the United States. This national hotline number will let you talk to experts in poisoning. They will give you further instructions.
This is a free and confidential service. All local poison control centers in the United States use this national number. You should call if you have any questions about poisoning or poison prevention. It does NOT need to be an emergency. You can call for any reason, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Take the container with you to the hospital, if possible.
The health care provider will measure and monitor the patient's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. The patient may receive:
Fluids through a vein (IV)
Medicines to treat symptoms
Endoscopy -- camera down the throat to see burns in the esophagus and the stomach
Washing of the skin (irrigation) -- perhaps every few hours for several days
How well a patient does depends on the type and amount of paint swallowed and how quickly treatment was received. The faster a patient gets medical help, the better the chance for recovery.
Latex paint can cause irritation to the mouth, esophagus, stomach, and intestines if swallowed. The paint will cause eye irritation if splashed into the eyes.
Mirkin DB. Benzene and related aromatic hydrocarbons. In: Shannon MW, Borron SW, Burns MJ, eds. Haddad and Winchester's Clinical Management of Poisoning and Drug Overdose. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 94.
Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.