Can Powder Coating Cause Cancer?

Powder coating involves applying dry color powder directly onto a metal surface and baking it onto it using heat, eliminating the need for liquid paints which contain toxic chemicals and volatile organic compounds. How can exposure to coating powders affect my health?

Chemicals can cause all manner of harm, from minor skin and respiratory irritation to serious lung disease and cancer. As a PCBU, you must ensure your employees are safe by providing them with appropriate safety equipment and systems of work.


Dust is a fine solid pollutant that can have detrimental effects on respiratory and skin systems when breathed in. Furthermore, dust may cause eye irritation as well as being toxic if swallowed.

Dusts can either be classified as inorganic or organic. Inorganic dusts originate from grinding metals and minerals while organic dusts come from plants or animals with living tissues containing fungi or microbes that create inflammation (scar tissue formation) when inhaled into the lungs, such as silica lung or asbestos lung disease; whilst organic dusts such as histoplasmosis, psittacosis or Q fever could potentially create diseased lung tissue due to exposure.

If spraying powder paints, it is imperative that a respirator, gloves and overalls be worn to avoid inhalation of dust particles. Furthermore, it is also vital that adequate ventilation systems are in place and all areas kept tidy to avoid build up of dust.

SDSs for powder coating chemicals often list health risks under “Hazard Statements or Risk Phrases”.

Can Powder Coating Cause Cancer?

Respiratory Irritation

Airway irritation is a frequent side effect of many inhaled chemicals. This effect often manifests itself at concentrations realistic for human exposure (for instance household ammonia, cigarette smoke, ozone and various metal oxides).

An acute exposure to respiratory irritants produces immediate symptoms like nasal and throat secretions, wheezing, and coughing. Longer and repeated exposures produce secondary effects like lung injury, fibrosis and bronchiolitis.

Powder coating equipment requires workers to wear personal protective equipment (PPE). Furthermore, workers should make sure the powder gun they are using is grounded. In addition to this, shower and washing facilities should be readily available to workers as well as an easily accessible first aid kit that will assist them with dealing with any health problems caused by powder coating such as eye wash and skin protection measures.

Skin Irritation

Many powder coating materials have the ability to cause skin irritation, including alkalines in manual spray wand systems and solvents such as acetone, alcohol and methyl ethyl ketone (MEK). Furthermore, these substances release toxic fumes which may also irritate respiratory passages or even damage eyesight. Powder coating doesn’t contain these substances, making it much safer to work with than wet paint. If you experience pain or an unpleasant rash after using powder coating, be sure to see your doctor immediately. Your doctor will ask about your job, household chores, hobbies and drug and cosmetic use to pinpoint the source of irritation. Irritation may result in dermatitis, which affects any part of your body with red, swollen and itchy skin that blisters – in rare instances even leading to serious septic infections.

Eye Irritation

Symptoms of eye irritation should be quickly alleviated; you can try rinsing with clear water or taking allergy medications such as antihistamine eye drops or pills; however, if they persist you should consult with a physician.

Liquid finishing products contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs). When released into the atmosphere, VOCs can cause environmental harm while also posing health risks to those exposed for extended periods. Powder coating provides a safer alternative in terms of environmental considerations by not employing VOCs as part of its formulation process.

To prevent eye irritation while powder coating, always wear a dust mask and frequently rinse your eyes to wash out particles from them. Furthermore, dehumidifiers may help reduce humidity in your work environment; to provide even further comfort you should provide shower and eye wash facilities as well as first aid items in your workplace.

To minimize potential health risks

Adequate ventilation in the workplace is essential to disperse airborne particles and fumes, thereby reducing the concentration of potentially harmful substances in the air. Powder coating workers must wear appropriate PPE such as masks or respirators, gloves and goggles to avoid inhaling or skin contact with dust and fumes.

It is essential to ensure that employees are adequately trained in the correct handling of powder coatings, safety measures and the use of personal protective equipment. Monitoring and maintaining the condition of powder coating equipment to prevent leaks or breakdowns can further reduce the risk of exposure.

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