Cancer and construction: Painters

This page tells you about the risk to construction workers from painting.

What is it?

Painting involves a number of different tasks such as sanding, filling, painting or spraying. This can expose you to a number of substances including:

How significant the exposure is will depend upon what you are doing, how you are doing it and where you are working.

What is the risk to construction workers?

HSE commissioned research identified painters and decorators as a significant 'at risk' group within the construction industry. Approximately 250 people from this group of workers are thought to have died in 2005 from cancer of the:

  • lung
  • bladder
  • stomach

It is important to note that this estimate is based on past exposures up to 50 years ago. Paint technology has changed significantly during that period - eg with the removal of lead pigments and a reduction in solvents levels. However, risks remain that you need to control.

Can you prevent this risk?

Yes. There are a number of steps you can take. These steps will depend upon the substance that you are dealing with; eg asbestos, lead, dust, solvents or other hazardous substances.

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Updated 2023-11-21