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Solvents And Paint Fume Extraction

Updated: May 24

In factories and workshops where paints are used or manufactured, paint and solvent fumes pose a high risk to workers. The capture and extraction of these fumes with Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV) systems in an efficient way is vital for maintaining a working environment that will ensure and protect the health of the operators. Regular testing of these LEV systems is required to ensure they are functioning effectively, especially as the fumes being handled are imperceptible to the naked eye.

What Are Solvents?

Solvents are chemical substances that are used to dissolve, remove or dilute other substances. Mixes of individual substances can be found in industrial solvents under various trade names.

Where Are Solvents Used?

The following industries work heavily with many solvents:

  • Engineering and construction.

  • Chemical production.

  • Printing.

  • Rubber and plastics.

  • Pharmaceuticals.

  • Footwear and textiles.

  • Foodstuffs.

  • Carpentry and woodworking.

  • Clothing dry cleaning.

  • Paint and ink manufacturing.

Many products may also contain solvents, such as:

  • Cleaning and degreasing substances.

  • Paints, paint remover, lacquer, varnish.

  • Glue and adhesives.

  • Ink, ink remover.

  • Pesticides.

  • Toiletries.

What Are The Hazards Of Solvent Use?

Solvents may be ingested through the mouth, absorbed through the skin directly or through work clothes contaminated with solvents as well as inhalation of paint or solvent vapours.

Effects Of Short-Term Exposure

Short-term effects of solvents can take many forms, such as:

  • Eye irritation;

  • breathing problems from lung irritation;

  • skin irritation;

  • headaches;

  • nausea and dizziness.

Exposure to solvents and fumes can impair your coordination, increasing the risk of accidents. In the event of higher exposures with high concentrations of solvent vapours, there is a risk of loss of consciousness and, at worst, death.

Effects Of Long-Term Exposure

Long-term daily exposure can result in many health issues depending on the exposure, concentration and type of solvent.

Employees that are consistently exposed to solvent vapours and fumes over many years will likely be exposed to a variety of different types, increasing the difficulty of defining the health effects caused by specific solvents.

However, long-term effects that have been observed include:

  • Leukaemia from benzene exposure;

  • Scleroderma from exposure to mixed solvents;

  • Renal cancer from chlorinated hydrocarbon exposure.

Heavily exposed workers may also suffer from reduced cognitive function in the form of attention span, verbal memory, ability to visually perceive objects and spatial awareness.

RCS's fully trained engineers can carry out a full site survey to determine sources of solvent vapours and provide options for potential Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV) systems and solvent vapour control solutions. Our engineers are fully COSHH compliant.

What Are The Safe Exposure Levels For Solvents?

Employers are required to be fully compliant to Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH). Workplace Exposure Limits or ‘WELs’ are the UK occupational exposure limits and are the measured concentrations of hazardous substances in the air, averaged over a specified period of time set. These WELs can vary based on the solvent being used, for example, the long-term exposure limit of Hydrogen chloride is set at 2 mg/m3 (averaged over 8 hours) and a short-term limit of 8 mg/m3.

Solvent Fume Extraction LEV Solutions

The control measures and LEV systems required will depend greatly on the nature, concentration, volume and toxicity of the solvents in your work environment. For example, confined spaces increase the concentration of hazardous fumes and the use of fume cabinets, extraction arms or downdraught benches would be especially effective at extracting solvents fumes in these circumstances.

What Can RCS Do For You

RCS are acutely aware of the detrimental effects of installing an ineffective LEV system. Our fully qualified LEV engineers will provide an LEV system, designed to your specific needs and installed correctly. In addition, RCS can carry out regular maintenance and COSHH testing of your LEV systems to ensure that you remain fully COSHH compliant.

RCS's engineers will endeavour to provide you with the most effective and cost-efficient solution for solvent fume extraction and filtration in partnership with Donaldson. Call us on +44(0)1563 546807 or click here to contact us for more information.


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