Is oil painting bad for your health ( 10 Questions Explained)

Oil painting is the most historical and ancient medium of painting. Its worth is dependent upon the popularity of the artist, in-depth details, any background story or relevance, the quality of oil paints, and many more.

There is a very threatening concept about oil painting and that’s why it is considered as dangerous for health.

Is oil painting really bad for health?

Is Oil Painting Bad For Health?

Yes, there is no doubt that oil painting is bad for health if not use with proper safety conditions. Oil painting needs some reactive solvents and mediums that are bad for health which not just impact humans but also leave their signs on animals including dogs, cats and other pets. 

The risk of health issues is very low because no one is going to eat them without any reason but solvents and mediums can influence by being get inhaled through breath.

In oil painting, you have to take care with the following elements:

  • Oil paints & thinners
  • Solvents such as turpentine and mineral spirits

Oil Paints:

There can be so many reasons why doing oil painting can be harmful to your health. Using oil paint with some techniques can be messy which can leave some paint on the hands, face, or hair.

Oil paints contain heavy metals such as lead, mercury, cobalt, and barium which can leave harmful effects. Some of the harmful oil paints include lead white, cadmium, and cobalt.


Solvents such as turpentine and mineral spirits can be harmful because they are originally toxic fumes that contain terpenes, carene, camphene, etc. These fumes can easily interact with the lungs by getting inhaled with breath.

Turpentine can cause headaches, vomiting, bleeding in the lungs, kidney damage, brain damage, and many more. But this is only possible if you inhale turpentine continuously. Otherwise, it is safe to use it by wearing a face mask.

Oil paint toxicity symptoms

Oil paints are formed with heavy metals including lead and mercury which can result in irritation in the eyes, blurred vision, difficulty in swallowing, nose irritation, cough, shallow breathing, and many more.

The symptoms of oil paint toxicity are as follows:

  • Decreasing eyesight
  • Irritation in the eye, nose, and throat
  • Poor breath
  • Headache
  • Skin redness

Health risks of oil painting

In my career, I have also witnessed an artist who does oil painting indoors. He doesn’t use any safety measures and was always messy with the work. He also doesn’t care about the toxic fumes emitted by the solvents such as turpentine and mineral spirits. As a result, he got lung cancer.

These health risks can be very low or none if you properly adjust your routine, keep cleanliness, and always wear a face mask when interacting with toxic fumes or solvents.

I have also seen some beginners who are really interested in their oil paints and want to try them with different methods such as with hands but they get allergic to oil paints.

Oil painting can be less harmful or you can minimize these risks but the main thing is your point of view and how you see it. Are you analyzing it as watercolors that have no impact on health or are you taking it seriously?

This is appreciable if you notice something and you visit here to know about the health issues with oil painting.

Does oil painting cause cancer?

Yes, oil painting can lead to cancer but this rate is very low. It is possible only if the artist accidentally takes some of the oil painting elements inside his body.

Petroleum-based products are the main reason for such kind of risk. First, these products are additive with some amount of benzene which is the major reason for cancer. These products include terpenoids and benzene.

How dangerous are student-grade oil paints?

Student-grade oil paints are less toxic as compared to professional-grade oil paints. These are named student grades because they are made by manufacturers in keeping mind the age levels.

They are safer than professional oil paints because they don’t contain original concentrations of cobalt, cadmium, and mercury. So, they can be used to decrease health issues but they are not as workable as original oil paints are.

When you go to Amazon to purchase some professional oil paints, there you must have seen an age range restriction that properly reflects the health issues that can be caused by these products.

What happens if you eat oil paint?

Eating oil paint can be the worst condition because there is no reason that you are going to get safe from the hazardous results of lead metals. They are going to go into your stomach to cause infection and even bleeding which is going to result in so many serious diseases.

A sense-able person cannot attempt this act but children can. Make sure that you don’t let the children come into the studio and don’t allow them to play with oil painting materials.

Is oil paint toxic on the skin?

Yes, some oil paints can be toxic to the skin also. They have bad impacts on the skin because they cause dryness of the skin including swelling and redness in the affected area. Oil paints contain heavy metals like mercury and cadmium which can lead to dermatitis and eczema.

Small spots of oil paint for a short time cannot create any impact. they will be hazardous only when you don’t remove them immediately. There is another misconception that when these oil paint stains get dry and beginners try to remove them with solvents. It makes the condition more critical.

Is oil paint bad to breathe?

Yes, oil paints are bad for breathing. Usually, oil paint fumes are not mixable with air as turpentine fumes do. So, there is no need to worry about oil paints unless you try to smell them yourself.

Is oil paint toxic to dogs?

When oil paint can be bad for humans then why it cannot be bad for our pets? It is more hazardous for your dogs because they will analyze new things just by smelling and they also don’t have a quality of speaking.

The major risk is that they continuously smell that oil paint and you get to know when they become sick. hence, oil paint is enough to sick your dog.

Safety when handling oil paints and other stuff

Usually, oil paints are also safer than other water-based paints but the thing which makes it bad for health is using them completely indoors where ventilation cannot save you from hazardous fumes.

I am enlisting some safety measures which you can follow to decrease the risk to a minimum extent

  • There can be several reasons for an artist to work indoors. Most of the artists work indoors due to the risk of fast drying of oil paints. But this can lead to health problems. You can work indoors but prefer a well-ventilated area. An exhaust fan can be used for this purpose.
  • Keep the window open when dealing with turpentine and other mineral spirits.
  • If you get oil paint on your skin, immediately wash them with soap and water
  • Avoid products that contain excess amounts of cadmium and mercury. Prefer alkyd colors which are safer and more reliable.
  • Keep children away from the studio
  • Use a face mask when working with solvents

Oil painting and environment

Oil painting also creates impacts on the environment because oil paints are hard to clean which are gonna leave marks on the walls and other stuff. Oil painting products are high in Volatile Organic Compounds which react with the Ozone layer and cause depletion in the layer. These impacts are the same as CFC gasses and the smoke from cars.

Later, this ozone depletion can cause air pollution and global warming. Only oil painting products are not responsible for ozone depletion but they play a role in doing so.

This does not mean you are playing a role in air pollution but this comment has been given by considering the manufacturing of these products in factories. 

Final Words

Oil painting is safe but we make it dangerous with our hectic routines. We all know that a thing that is quite irritating to smell can be dangerous for our health but we keep using it without any safety measures.

Oil painting is also dangerous for all animals including dogs. So, you must do oil painting at a separate place where no other body comes. Or if someone comes, who can at least justify the difference between toxic and safe?


Is it safe to oil paint in the bedroom?

It depends on the ventilation. But is not recommended to work in the bedroom because children can be in the bedroom and analyze things by eating them.
You cannot work with freedom because you need to place your material including an easel, canvas, palette, and other stuff. After working in the bedroom, you have to search again for how to remove oil paint from bedsheets, carpets, etc.
So, don’t work with oil paints in the bedroom.

Is it safe to put oil paint on my face?

Putting oil paint on the face can lead to many serious skin and health problems. It may cause dermatitis and eczema. Putting on the face means oil paint is going to get closer to the nose which can cause breathing, throat, and lung issues. So, don’t do this by any means.

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