A father of two is still fighting for his life after being burned over 80 percent of his body when the east Denver house he was painting exploded in flames. The husband and father, whose chances of survival were estimated at 5 to 10 percent, has had three surgeries since the accident happened two weeks ago. He is expected to remain in the Burn Trauma Intensive Care Unit at University of Colorado Hospital for three to four months.
The father, 50, was painting the basement of a rental house in the 14600 block of East 43rd Avenue that is owned by his parents. An initial investigation showed he was painting with oil-based paint, and it ignited.
The terrible tragedy highlights the dangers of oil based paint. When painting an interior space, choose water-based over oil-based paint whenever possible. Select the least toxic, lowest VOC paints available, especially for indoor paint jobs. Ask at your paint store for help.
If you are using oil-based paint, take extra precautions (the label will say “Warning: Flammable” or “Caution: Combustible”). Not only are the health risks greater with solvent-based paints, there is an added danger of fire. Eliminate all sources of flames and sparks, and don’t smoke. Keep used rags in sealed containers until you can dispose of them.
Oil-based paints and other petroleum-based products have vapors that are harmful when breathed. These vapors are called volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. Volatile organic compounds in paints can cause headaches, eye irritation, nausea, dizziness, and fatigue. Long-term exposure can lead to more serious health problems like central nervous system, liver, and kidney damage. Paint vapors pose a higher risk for pregnant women, young children, people with respiratory ailments, and individuals with high rates of exposure, such as commercial painters. Some of the solvents in paints that result in high levels of VOCs are ethylene, toluene, xylene, acetone, and methylene chloride.