RR1112 - Summary of evidence – solvent-based hydrophobic coatings and risks for acute respiratory toxicity

Water repellent coatings are increasingly used by different industries to reduce water and dirt sticking to surfaces. The coatings can be applied by processes that minimise the risk that operators inhale the product but there is evidence that some products are applied by spraying, creating an inhalable mist.

This review examined evidence about these coatings and whether lung disease occurs when applied by spraying. Scientific studies on the hazardous properties of these products, and clinical studies reporting lung disease in people using them, were considered.

A consistent finding was that some people develop an acute lung inflammation when applying these coatings by spray misting. Studies across Great Britain, Europe and the United States reported several hundred cases of serious lung disease and some fatalities, mostly in consumers applying such products using pressurised spray cans in poorly ventilated spaces. Experimental studies suggest that the different water repellent ingredients and solvents in which they are dissolved combine to damage the delicate lining of the lung.

Smart surface coatings offer many industrial and societal benefits. However, they should be applied by methods that minimise the risk of inhaling the product.

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Updated 2021-04-15