One of my projects at work is painting the golf cart we use as a lot vehicle. I’m just doing it for fun, and I’ve decided not to bill the company for the cost of materials, since I figure I’m getting at least that much value back in experience and experimentation in working with plastic and fiberglass.

A tenant who is a professional painter made a recommendation on the type of paint to use and the general technique (do the painting in the shade, on a cool surface, then put in the sun to bake it on). So I’ve had the golf cart inside one of the large storage units (which we use as a garage for the cart) in order to paint it.

Now, this is spray paint we’re talking about. So of course I’m concerned about fumes. I leave the roll-up door completely open, and there is typically a good breeze here, so the ventilation is very good. I wore some old, ratty clothes (which are now covered with green and white paint), and latex gloves.

I did not, however, wear any protection for my lungs. I spent 1½ hours in that garage, spray painting. When I was done I had green nostrils and I spat green saliva for an hour afterward. I went home and did a nasal irrigation and expelled hunter green mucus from my sinus cavities.

Today I did some more spray painting. This time I wore a NIOSH N95 safety mask. This type of mask protects against airborne particles, such as paint mist (although not oil-based aerosol fumes — for that you need a P95 rated mask). This, ladies and gentlemen, is what I was breathing the first time when I wasn’t wearing a mask:

While it is true that mucus is one of the body’s barriers against foreign matter entering the body, it isn’t 100% effective. When I went outside the unit for a breather every couple of minutes, I noticed that the breeze was pulling the paint mist out and the mist was so thick it looked like smoke coming out of the building. The moral of the story is: always wear all your safety gear, even if you don’t plan to be working very long.

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