Paint and COPD/emphysema

We desperately need to do some home repair.  Going to have someone do it, drywall, knockdown and paint the whole house.  I will of course leave for the drywall/knockdown because of the dust but what about the paint?  There is a paint they say they use in hospitals here in the US called Harmony by Sherwin Williams that is supposedly 0% VOC.  Sherwin Williams says I can enter right away yet I've read some places that I need to stay out 6-8 hours.  Has anyone had any experiences with painting and our lungs?  I'm new to finding out about all this stuff and the disease.  Not on any medications at this time and would very much like to keep it that way so really trying to watch what I'm around.  Any input would be greatly appreciated.

36 Replies

  • I have mod/severe copd/ emphysema and take care to not breathe in any chemical fumes like oven cleaner , stain removers or dry cleaning smells as they seem to constrict and close up my airways, but I love the smell of freshly painted rooms as long as the window is open, I love the smell of creosote and black disinfectant, coal tar soap and certain perfumes and flowers and they don't bother me at all, so I think it's an individual thing or I'm just weird lol!

    Be best to take caution , perhaps wait for clement weather, get the paint on early and make sure there is plenty of ventilation.huff xxx

  • Thanks for the response Huffer!  Great news!  They will probably be painting all day and hubby promises to keep windows open and fans running.  I will return in the evening I guess, wasn't sure if maybe the following day.  Guess I will have to see how it affects me as you say.  I also have mod also.

  • Cleaner was in this morning attacking the kitchen and I suddenly started sneezing and coughing, strong smell of lemon, called her in and found she was using the Flash lemon floor cleaner, have had it before with no problems but it is definitely a NO NO from now on, wonder if they have changed the 'recipe', just a heads up!

  • I'm in the US never heard of that one before, maybe it has ammonia in it?  I hear that is awful for us.  I bought myself a Symphony, it steams and vacuums at the same time so I don't have to use any chemicals at all.  The vacuum is not the greatest so sometimes I have to do an extra vacuum as my dog is a shedder.

  • 'flash' make lots of different cleaning products in UK and until today I have never had any problem with any of them! Have 2 Dyson vacuums but have problems with steam cleaners! We are each so similar and so different!

  • There was a programme on TV about lemon scents. Apparently is  called Limonene and when in the air turns into formaldehyde.  Nuff said.  Real lemons obviously are OK.

  • Thank you for that information, will be more careful in future! Gave my cleaner the full bottle of Flash as she didn't have a problem with it and will have to try something else, it has caused a nasty flare up and I managed to contact a respiratory nurse who came out and am now on antibiotics and steroids. Very scary.

  • You could wear a mask and keep the windows open I used to work as a cleaner and wore a mask when using cleaning stuff. Just to be on the safe side. As huff says everyone is different to what effects them. Take care 

  • Thanks Not guess I will have to see how it affects me as you both say, wasn't sure.  I used to do all the painting myself and loved it but now my age and this copd/emphysema diagnosis I don't want to make my lungs any worse for wear :-)  

  • Hi

    Your on the right path with low or zero VOC. I using zero VOC white gloss and either Dulux  or Crown breatheasy emulsion very low in VOC. The majority of water based paints will be low VOC.

    Had no problems but always have plenty of ventilation.

    I have problems with triggers, household products, hair sprays, airfresheners. 

  • Stone - always excellent advice from you.  You know so much and offer sensible advice about everything.  A gentleman came to paint my home last year - walls were fine, but when he started on the doors I had to get outside very quickly - I  could not breathe.  I felt sorry for him - he was upset, but I had not told him about the copd, so  he had to go back and fetch some water based eggshell - I couldn't smell it at all. He said it was no problem. I won't have anything smelly in the house unless it is the perfume of a couple of slices of back bacon under the grill on a Sunday morning.

  • Yes water based eggshell paint is ok, not quite so hard wearing but at least you can live with it.  Have used Wickes own brand, also, I noticed it stays whiter than oil based gloss.

  • Very true, but who cares as long as there is no smell.


  • Stone I've gotten so I can't stand the smells and had a bad problem with carpet cleaner, never again!  I've also noticed the air fresheners also.  I'm hoping to be able to return a few hours after the painter is done, we shall see.  They start next weekend.

  • I've got copd emps and asthma so to inhale paint ,fumes,smoke, or certain cleaning items ,and perfume is a no-no it affects my lungs straight away so be careful happy Easter all x

  • Thanks Titchy, that's what I'm asking, this paint is supposed to be virtually odorless but I'm sure it can't be totally odorless lol

  • Hi palms1124 fingers crossed there's no after fumes its going to look lovely take care have a great Easter x

  • Thank you Titchy, you have a great Easter also :-)

  • Aren't fumes strange? I'm okay with most paints but suffocate at the slightest whiff of scented candles,  vinegar and perfumes.

    My wife cannot "do her nails" at home (seems it's a good excuse for a couple of hours out!) and even last week I went to look at a new car but they used a cleaning fluid of some sort and had to leave the showroom (with my wife apologising to the salesman) gasping for breath.

    Seems to me that some strong smells have no effect while other, very mild smells, are akin to a murderer wrapping their hands around your throat!

    Fortunately, I don't have an aversion to the fumes from whisky so, being as the sun is over the yardarm .... 

  • Y, why should you feel the need to apologise for having an incurable health issue. They are the ones who use these high odour products.  Rib 

  • Fair point! I guess I never see it that way. Funny enough, I was talking with my wife yesterday and mentioned that, at times I get embarrassed while talking to people because I run out of breath and she said, "So what? What does it matter, they should just accept it" I thought it was an odd thing to say but, now I've read your reply I see what she means. Thank you!

  • I agree, not something you can fix, but they can fix their attitudes!

  • Having lived in a wheelchair for 33yr I have  come across most of the issues that crop up. With as wide a range of health problems that I have collected I find it a pleasure to help others handle theirs. Most people's problems are the dent or often whacking great crater, that newly /recently disabled aquire in their self- confidence. Part of repairing the dent is accepting that one's abilities have changed. The other is that this is not your fault.

    If other people have a problem with that then it is They who have a problem. It is they that need to learn to live in an inclusive world.

    Regards Rib 

  • I've just been painting in my flat using acrylic based rather than traditional oil based paint. What a difference! No smell at all, no need for turps or white spirit, brushes and hands clean with water. I'm so pleased I found this paint. I thought it would be weeks before I could sleep in my flat again as with previous times of painting but with this stuff the flat is fine the same day. (It also dries really quickly too!) 

  • iviviv are you doing the painting yourself?  I understood that we should not with breathing problems.

  • Yes but I don't have COPD myself I am carer to my Dad who does. I live in a wee granny flat and Dad in the main house so he won't be affected by my paint but I'm definitely really glad to have used such nice fume free paint because even for non COPD person paint fumes are horrible and very unhealthy. Also I wouldn't want to put my teeny wee dog at risk who lives in flat with me. I'm a big fan of water based paint now, even the gloss is water based! It's great and it was so easy to clean off the brushes too. Love it!! (Plus it was only £4.99 a litre tin in Aldi so bargain!!)

  • This was my problem, paint vapours. Horrid! Over Christmas I found the answer. It is Lakeland Ecos paints. You need to find them on the internet. Ordered one day, arrived early the next in west Cornwall. Absolutely no smell, great coverage, brushes wash out in water instantly and over 70 colours to choose from. I sound as if I have connections with the company. I don't. I am just so pleased with my find.

  • Glad you found something you can live with.  The one we are using here in the US is called Harmony by Sherwin Williams.  We are going to go pick it up today and they start painting next Saturday so will let you all know.  Sure is expensive stuff ($265 for 5 gallons) but well worth it if it is what they advertise.  Thanks for so many great responses.  Have a wonderful Saturday and a Happy Easter!

  • I have severe COPD and Emphysema and have recently used Leyland water based Satin finish paint on the walls of an inside bathroom and I was not effected. We bought it because dulux and similar paints go yellow when not in day light and this is staying pure white!!

    This was highly recommended as being non toxic and I managed ok.

    Hope this helps.

  • Hallentine are you saying you painted yourself?

  • Yes I did. I worked for about 15 minutes then took a break outside the room and then back to it again. (but then I ended up in Intensive care last I wonder......?) No. I jest; I did get pneumonia in December but that was nothing do with painting. 

  • Thanks good for you that you could do that but sorry also that you ended up in the hospital was that because of the copd/emphysema?

  • I had been suffering a nasty virus for months and months and just as I thought it was clearing up i came down with this viral pneumonia which led to respiratory failure. I was unable to breath unaided and so hence the chemical induced coma. There was nothing else they could do. I would have died other wise.

  • Wow so sorry!

  • Just wanted to update all that were so kind with their responses.  I did go out during the painting and stayed out until the next day.  The Harmony paint seems to be great (although highly expensive) as I had no problems with it.  Yay!  :-)

  • I am a maintenance manager and I have done a huge amount of painting in the hotel where I work, I use water based eggshell, acrylic primer undercoat. And water based satinwood for the woodwork, the problems I have found is getting the room clear of dust and shit, getting all the materials to the room up all the stairs. Then up & down steps or stuck in one position when painting skirting . The smell of paint is not a big issue so long as I have some air coming in, it just the rest that bloody knackers me.

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