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AFV Painting & Weathering
Answers to questions about the right paint scheme or tips for the right effect.
Airbrushing enamels
Denimo
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British Columbia, Canada
Member Since: August 29, 2017
entire network: 142 Posts
KitMaker Network: 11 Posts
Posted: Friday, February 21, 2020 - 08:27 AM UTC
Hi There

Ive recently upgraded my spraybooth and it now safely vents to atmosphere. I have avoided using enamel for all the usual h+s reasons up until now but now "Im vented", do I need a respirator or can I rely on the exhaust fan to deal with fume?

Dumb question but Ive had lung issues and dont want to take any chances.

Thanks to all.
Kevlar06
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Washington, United States
Member Since: March 15, 2009
entire network: 3,300 Posts
KitMaker Network: 489 Posts
Posted: Friday, February 21, 2020 - 08:46 AM UTC
Denis,
Firstly, if you’ve had “lung issues” you should be using a respirator with ALL types of aerosolized paint. It’s a myth that Acrylics are “safe” to aerosolize. Virtually any types of paint, when it becomes an airborne micro-particulate, can become a health hazard if concentrated in a small enough space. The main difference between enamels and acrylics are the solvents in the paint, and it’s true, lacquers and enamels usually contain solvents which are more toxic than water based paints. However, many common acrylics also contain some toxic solvents— just take a look at the ingredients on a bottle of Tamiya “acrylic” “lacquers”. In hobby painting, it’s the airborne particulate size and composition you need to be aware of. A spray booth with a large enough CFM extractor can normally be safely used with most hobby airbrushed enamels and lacquers. But again, if you already have lung health issues (like asthma) you’d best wear a respirator to be on the safe side—regardless of the paint you use.
To be clear— The word “acrylics” and their apparent lack of odor often lulls model builders into the belief there isn’t any hazard. Yet acrylic lacquers (as are found in automotive paints like PPG paints) are often some of the most hazardous paints available. Hand painting with almost any hobby paints, acrylic, lacquer or enamels isn’t really an issue, it’s when you aerosolize the paint into airborne micro-particulates where it becomes a problem. Personally, I’d rather have the smell of enamels or lacquers present, that’s when I know it’s time to don a mask. You often don’t have any warning with water based acrylics.
VR, Russ
Petro
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Connecticut, United States
Member Since: November 02, 2003
entire network: 948 Posts
KitMaker Network: 65 Posts
Posted: Friday, February 21, 2020 - 08:58 AM UTC
It depends on how clean your filters are in your spray booth, how powerful the motor is and if you put your subject in the center of the booth or closer to the edge.
From personal experience, my booth has A, dirty filters that need replacement and B. Because mine is tucked in a corner, I usually spray at the outside edge due to comfort. I have never used a mask, though there are times I noticed I should.
Acrylics i don’t notice to much, but any heavier solvent based mediums I do.
brekinapez
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Georgia, United States
Member Since: July 26, 2013
entire network: 2,086 Posts
KitMaker Network: 119 Posts
Posted: Friday, February 21, 2020 - 09:02 AM UTC
As Russ says, if you've already dealt with lung issues wear a mask.

Why risk it?
Belt_Fed
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New Jersey, United States
Member Since: February 02, 2008
entire network: 1,382 Posts
KitMaker Network: 17 Posts
Posted: Friday, February 21, 2020 - 11:08 AM UTC
Yes, you should wear a respirator even if you have a proper spray booth. This goes for whatever type of paint you are using- acrylic, lacquer, or enamel.
Denimo
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British Columbia, Canada
Member Since: August 29, 2017
entire network: 142 Posts
KitMaker Network: 11 Posts
Posted: Saturday, February 22, 2020 - 06:40 AM UTC
Thanks to all for the advice, I'll be wearing a respirator from now on!
Scarred
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Washington, United States
Member Since: March 11, 2016
entire network: 1,477 Posts
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Posted: Saturday, February 22, 2020 - 06:51 AM UTC
I shot enamels for decades with no mask but with plenty of ventilation as long as you have good air flow out your paintbooth and fresh air coming into the room you should be ok. I have one of those $90 collapsible paintbooths and I was wondering how much air it was moving so I lit a match and held it in the middle of the booth. I was impressed, it was pulling the flame over almost 90 degrees. I blew it out and the smoke was gone in a flash and you couldn't smell the sulphur. Since I now use acrylics for about 95% of my painting I have no concern about fumes.
Kevlar06
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Washington, United States
Member Since: March 15, 2009
entire network: 3,300 Posts
KitMaker Network: 489 Posts
Posted: Saturday, February 22, 2020 - 08:28 AM UTC

Quoted Text

I shot enamels for decades with no mask but with plenty of ventilation as long as you have good air flow out your paintbooth and fresh air coming into the room you should be ok. I have one of those $90 collapsible paintbooths and I was wondering how much air it was moving so I lit a match and held it in the middle of the booth. I was impressed, it was pulling the flame over almost 90 degrees. I blew it out and the smoke was gone in a flash and you couldn't smell the sulphur. Since I now use acrylics for about 95% of my painting I have no concern about fumes.



I do not own a spray booth, but I do own an M17 protective mask, and a couple of very good MSA masks. Speaking frankly, I don’t use them all the time, since I keep my airbrushing activities confined to a large, 3 car garage with at least one of the doors open, and a vortex fan on my workbench. Where I’d use a mask, for a large painting project, say the hull of a 1/350 or larger capital ship, or a 1/16th or larger Abrams, a spray booth wouldn’t really be large enough (unless it was a commercial hood). And those portable booths with the built in filters aren’t always the safest, unless you frequently change the filter— because a saturated filter won’t trap particulates. The best paint booths exhaust particulates outside. I spent a good part of my military career working with various agents, with and without fume hoods. I’ve always had great, if not outstanding lung capacity. So I don’t really fuss for a small 10 minute 12-18 PSI spray session once every two or three weeks. But where there’s a large cloud of aerosol involved, or I’m painting more than 15 minutes, I don one of the masks. Having lived with two Asthmatics, and known fellow modelers who are Asthmatic, I’d say— wear a mask AND use a hood if you’re an Asthmatic or have any decreased lung capacity for any reason irregardless of the type of paint you use. How do you know if you have lung issues? The periodic test given to chemical folks at laboratories and storage sites is an O2 saturation test. You can get the same test at your Doc’s office during your annual checkup (it’s a small square clip that fits over the tip of your index finger). If your resting O2 level is below 92% saturation, you’d better be wearing a mask when you paint, and you’d better find out why it’s not higher, as normal resting range is between 92-98%. If painting causes headaches, dizziness, or any other outward reaction like nasal drainage, eye irritation, or shortness of breath, wear a mask. These are good “rules of thumb” to follow. Even if you have a spray booth. Respiratory problems are nothing to fool with, especially as you get older.
VR, Russ