Is Acrylic Paint Toxic

When it comes to the toxicity of paints, there can be a lot of confusion. Different paint types have different chemical compositions. Some may produce ill-effects in people when fume inhalation, direct skin contact, or accidental swallowing occur.

Acrylic paint may or may not be toxic. Acrylic paint is water-based, which is usually a mark of non-toxicity. But some versions contain toxic ingredients, including possible carcinogens. Additionally, acrylic paints can release harmful fumes, especially as the paint dries.

Certain ingredients are only a significant danger through inhalation. That can occur when airbrushing or using a similar technique.

When drying, some acrylic paints can also release some potentially harmful chemicals. At times, you have to ingest a large amount to cause harm.

Ultimately, the toxicity of acrylic paint can vary. By knowing what ingredients pose the biggest threat, you can separate the potentially dangerous ones from the pack. If you are wondering, “Is acrylic paint toxic?” here’s everything you need to know.

Is Acrylic Paint Toxic

Are Acrylic Paint Ingredients Toxic?

Acrylic paint ingredients can be toxic, but not all acrylic paints contain potentially harmful ingredients. There are non-toxic acrylic paints where ingredients that could harm a person aren’t used. But some brands do use possibly dangerous ingredients.

For example, lead is a potential concern. While lead in paints is banned in the United States, if you buy paints manufactured overseas, they may contain lead as not all countries have the same bans in place.

But lead isn’t the only concern. Acrylic paints can contain a range of heavy metals that are potentially dangerous. Some are linked to cancers, while others are associated with heart, lung, liver, kidney, or skin disease. In high enough quantities, heavy metals can cause organ failure and even death.

For example, cadmium, which is used as a colorant, is a probable carcinogen and considered highly toxic. As a probable carcinogen, there is a significant likelihood that certain levels or types of exposure could cause cancer. Titanium dioxide, another potential ingredient, is listed as a possible carcinogen.

Cobalt is another colorant that can be harmful. The same goes for chromium, copper, zinc, and strontium.

Manganese is a naturally occurring mineral that can be part of a healthy diet. However, when inhaled, it can be harmful to the nervous system. As a result, it qualifies as a toxic ingredient in paint.

Heavy metals are dangerous. Once they make their way into the body, they begin to accumulate. They can begin to replace essential minerals in the body, leading to organ system damage. In time, organ damage may be so extensive that it leads to organ failure and potentially death.

The important thing to realize is that not all acrylic paints contain those ingredients. Some acrylics are specifically designed to be non-toxic, ensuring that no potentially harmful ingredients are used during its creation.

Additionally, acrylic paints that contain toxic ingredients usually have to be labeled with a warning. However, if the paint is made in a country with looser standards, that may not appear. That’s why reviewing the ingredients list is a necessity, allowing you to determine what’s in the paint.

Is Acrylic Paint Poisonous on Skin?

Acrylic paint on body

Whether acrylic paint is toxic when it comes in contact with skin depends on the ingredients. If the paint uses any toxic ingredients, like those listed above, it may be harmful to your skin and body as a whole.

While it’s true that people come in contact with heavy metals regularly, increased and prolonged exposure can be dangerous. If you’re using acrylic paint that contains heavy metals, they can cause skin irritation. Plus, heavy metals can be absorbed through the skin in some cases, allowing them to potentially harm other parts of your body.

You may be wondering, if an acrylic paint is non-toxic, is acrylic paint safe for your skin? Generally speaking, with non-toxic versions, skin contact isn’t typically dangerous. The main exceptions there tend to be allergies and harm caused by paint removal.

People can be allergic to a variety of substances, including non-toxic paint ingredients. If you have an allergy, the paint could cause an adverse reaction.

However, even if the paint contains no irritants, removing dried on pain can aggravate the skin. Pulling dried pieces off can rip out small body hairs, while scrubbing can damage the skin’s outer layers.

Intentionally painting your body with acrylic paint isn’t recommended. It isn’t okay to put acrylic paint on faces, so it shouldn’t be used in place of genuine face paint or body paint. Those are specifically designed to go on the skin. As a result, they don’t contain harmful ingredients and are usually reasonably easy to wash off when the time comes.

Is Acrylic Paint Toxic for Babies?

Are acrylic paints toxic

Acrylic paint can be toxic for babies, depending on the ingredients list. However, even non-toxic versions may not be ideal for young children, including babies and toddlers. This is especially true with finger painting.

Young kids are often more likely to put their fingers in their mouths, even if they are covered in paint. If the acrylic paint contains toxic ingredients, not only is there direct skin exposure, but there is also a high likelihood that some paint will be swallowed. This introduces toxic ingredients into the body, including heavy metals that may harm organs, potentially to the point of organ failure and death.

While non-toxic acrylic paint isn’t toxic, it shouldn’t be ingested, either. Small amounts may irritate the mouth, throat, and stomach. Swallowing larger quantities can lead to vomiting.

Additionally, babies can be more sensitive to certain substances. What qualifies as a mild irritant for an adult may do more harm to a young child’s system.

Finally, babies can have allergies. Children should only be allowed to use paint of any kind while under direct supervision. Additionally, direct contact should usually be limited unless the paint is specifically designed for finger painting.

Is Acrylic Paint Toxic to Breathe?

Is acrylic paint bad for skin

Acrylic paint can be toxic to breathe. If it contains toxic ingredients, like the heavy metals listed above, using that acrylic paint for airbrushing may be particularly risky. Additionally, acrylic paints may release harmful fumes that shouldn’t be inhaled.

Airbrushing involves the use of a pneumatic tool that mixes the paint with air, making it sprayable. It essentially atomizes the paint and, in that form, makes breathing the paint a possibility.

When the paint contains toxins, using an airbrush tool increases the odds that you’ll breathe those substances in, drawing them directly into the mouth, down the throat, and into the lungs. From there, they can enter the circulatory system. As they do, they’ll begin to build up in certain organs, like the liver, lungs, kidneys, or brain, potentially causing catastrophic damage.

Generally speaking, inhaling any paint particles is potentially dangerous. Human lungs aren’t designed to deal with those substances, increasing the likelihood of harm. For airbrushing, wearing a mask should be considered essential even if the paint is non-toxic.

Additionally, as acrylic paint dries, it can release a range of harmful gases. This can include chemicals like acetone, benzene, toluene, xylene, and even formaldehyde, depending on the brand.

When using acrylic paints, even non-toxic versions, being in a well-ventilated space is a must, keeping overall exposure lower. Additionally, wearing a particle mask can give you a level of protection for potentially harmful gases.

If you’re wondering, “Is acrylic paint toxic when dry?” generally, it isn’t. However, acrylic paints may release fumes during the drying process, which can take a significant amount of time. Plus, some off-gas for a while longer, which is why ventilation is so critical.

Additionally, acrylic paints that contain toxic ingredients are harmful if swallowed. This includes if a person consumes a dry paint chip. Once eaten, the digestive system attempt to break down the paint chip, potentially releasing the toxic ingredients into the body.

Is Acrylic Paint Toxic to Dogs?

Acrylic paint can be toxic to dogs. Like people, heavy metals can be harmful to canines, potentially leading to neurological issues, gastrointestinal distress, and organ damage. Additionally, some of the chemical fumes can irritate breathing passages or worse.

As with people, heavy metals can accumulate in a dog’s system. As they build up in organs, they compete with essential minerals. If the accumulation is doing enough damage, it can lead to organ failure and death.

Even non-toxic paints can harm dogs. Dogs clean by licking themselves. If they consume enough non-toxic paint, it can cause digestive issues, including vomiting.

If you want to involve your dog in a painting project, such as capturing a paw print, make sure you choose non-toxic paint. Additionally, clean the paint off immediately and make sure you’re thorough. That way, your dog won’t ingest any of the paint.

Is Acrylic Paint Toxic to Cats?

Acrylic paint can be toxic to cats. Heavy metals are dangerous for felines, just as they are for humans. Heavy metal exposure has been linked to chronic kidney disease in cats, for example. It’s also connected to neurological damage, digestive troubles, and other forms of organ damage.

Heavy metals are harmful to cats. Exposure to acrylic paint containing those toxic ingredients can lead to heavy metal poisoning. If that occurs, organ failure may occur, and that can lead to death.

Like dogs, cats clean themselves by licking. That means even non-toxic paint can cause trouble. If enough is consumed, it causes digestive issues and could lead to vomiting.

If you want to capture your cat’s paw print with paint, choose non-toxic paint. Work quickly and, once you’re done, make sure to clean your cat’s paw completely right away. This ensures they don’t ingest any paint while cleaning their paw.

Is Acrylic Paint Toxic to Other Animals and Birds?

Acrylic paint is potentially toxic to birds and other animals. Heavy metals in the body are almost universally dangerous. If the acrylic paint contains those toxic ingredients, it can harm nearly any species. That includes birds, hamsters, snakes, rats, sheep, cattle, frogs, and more.

Heavy metal toxicity levels do vary depending on species. Some animals are more susceptible to certain ones. For example, lead is particularly troublesome for horses. However, it’s often best to prevent all exposure to heavy metals.

When heavy metals make their way into a wild animal population, they can have various effects. For example, they may alter growth, impact breeding, and lead to premature deaths due to organ failures or other ill-effects.

Additionally, even consuming non-toxic acrylic paint can cause digestive distress. Usually, it takes a significant amount to lead to a problem. But what’s considered significant can vary depending on an animal’s size. For example, what’s considered significant for a hamster or budgie may be a tiny drop for a llama or cow.

Is Acrylic Paint Toxic to Plants?

Acrylic paint can harm plants. Plants are also susceptible to heavy metals. Exposing them to acrylic paint containing those toxic ingredients is harmful. Additionally, if toxic acrylic paint contaminates a food garden, eating the fruits or vegetables could lead to the consumption of those heavy metals.

It’s important to note that direct contact with the toxic acrylic paint isn’t necessary to cause harm. If the toxins absorb into the soil that a plant uses for sustenance, that’s enough to potentially hurt the plant.

Generally, non-toxic acrylic paint won’t cause significant harm to plants. However, exposure should still be limited.

Is Acrylic Paint Toxic If Swallowed?

Acrylic paint is harmful if swallowed and can be toxic when ingested. If the acrylic paint contains a harmful ingredient, like heavy metal, swallowing it allows those dangerous substances into the body. Depending on the toxic ingredient, it can lead to organ damage, organ failure, and even death.

Additionally, both toxic and non-toxic acrylic paint can cause digestive issues if consumed in large quantities. One of the most common effects is vomiting. But it can lead to other kinds of digestive concerns, like heartburn and diarrhea. It may also irritate the mouth, tongue, throat, and intestines, even if the paint is non-toxic.

If a person is allergic to any ingredient in the acrylic paint, swallowing the paint could cause a reaction. This includes ingredients in non-toxic versions.

How severe the symptoms are will vary depending on the level of allergy. For mild allergies, swallowing the paint may lead to itching or a rash, for example. For severe allergies, breathing problems, significant swelling, and other issues could occur. In a worst-case scenario, allergic reactions can be fatal.

Can Acrylic Paint Cause Cancer?

Some acrylic paints do contain probable or possible carcinogens. Those are substances that have a high or moderate likelihood of causing cancer. As a result, acrylic paint can potentially cause cancer if the exposure levels are high enough.

Versions of acrylic paint without those toxic ingredients aren’t considered cancer-causing. They don’t contain any recognized probable or possible carcinogens. That means there’s no widely-accepted connection to cancer for non-toxic acrylic paints.

Is Acrylic Paint Bad for the Environment?

Acrylic paint can be harmful to the environment. Both toxic and non-toxic versions can contain chemicals and solvents. Those aren’t ideal for the water supply and local soil.

Additionally, they may have dangerous heavy metals as ingredients. Heavy metals can hurt the environment, too.

Paint containing lead, cadmium, chromium, or other heavy metals is usually a hazardous waste. Due to its ability to cause harm, you can’t throw it in the garbage, take it to a landfill, or dump it with other household trash. Instead, it’s usually disposed of in special, lined containers. That ensures the heavy metals can’t leach into the soil or water supply.

The same goes for heavy metal-contaminated soil. While some areas allow property owners to bury it, if you want to get rid of the dirt, you have to take it to a specialized hazardous waste collection area.

If you have paint supplies that have come in contact with toxic acrylic paint, you may have to treat those as hazardous waste, as well. For example, paint booth filters contaminated with heavy metal pigments shouldn’t go into the trash; treat them as hazardous waste.

Additionally, acrylic paint can cause plumbing and sewer line problems. While it is water-soluble when wet, it’s water-resistant when dry. Depending on how it moves through the pipes, it can cause buildup, leading to blockages.


Ultimately, acrylic paint can be toxic. If you want to ensure you get a non-toxic version, look for acrylic paints labeled as non-toxic. Additionally, spend a moment reading the ingredients label. That way, you’ll know exactly what’s in your paint.

Keep in mind that even non-toxic acrylic paint may be harmful in certain situations. They may produce potentially dangerous fumes, for one. For another, swallowing large amounts can lead to digestive issues, including severe vomiting.

When using acrylic paints, it’s wise to take precautions. Use a particle mask to protect yourself. Put on gloves to reduce the odds of skin contact. That way, you’re chances of harmful exposure are greatly diminished.