Harmful odorous substances identified in acrylic paints

A research team from the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV has for the first time characterised the odor of acrylic paints and identified harmful odorous substances.

Tubes from which color runs out
The Fraunhofer IVV has examined the odour-active components of acrylic paints in more detail. Source: PIRO4D / Pixabay. -

The often unpleasant odour emitted by acrylic paints is due to volatile organic compounds. These are organic, i.e. carbon-containing substances which evaporate easily and are gaseous even at low room temperatures. In contrast to earlier products, acrylic paints today already consist of water-soluble dispersions. As a result, they have a lower content of volatile compounds and are considered to be largely safe. Despite their reduction, however, volatile organic compounds and thus also odorous substances are not completely eliminated. Exposure can therefore have effects.

Acrylic paint odor traceable to benzene derivatives

The Fraunhofer IVV has now examined the odour-active components of acrylic paints in more detail. For the analysis, six acrylic paints regularly available on the market were selected for artists’ needs. The samples were characterised by a trained sensor panel in the Fraunhofer IVV. The odour is mainly due to various benzene derivatives. The main odour substances identified are styrene, ethylbenzene, isopropylbenzene, sec-butylbenzene and propylbenzene. They cause the plastic-like and solvent-like odour of the paints. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons also play a decisive role, including naphthalene, indane and tetralin derivatives as well as various acrylates.

Acrylic paints – from analysis to lower-risk products

Prof. Andrea Büttner uses her analytical methods based on techniques from aroma research to identify odorous substances in various products. “With our work we are laying the decisive foundations for avoidance,” says the deputy head of the Fraunhofer IVV and head of the Analytical Sensor Technology department. Patrick Bauer from her team was in charge of the study on odorous substances in acrylic paints published at the end of November 2018. “The proven benzene derivatives, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and odour-active acrylates that are harmful to health should be avoided in acrylic paints,” explains Patrick Bauer. “This can reduce both the odor and the potential health risk posed by the substances found. The selection of added solvents and softening components plays an important role.

Image source: Pixabay

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