Over-painting with isothiazolinone-free paint — can it help?

A few weeks ago my eye was caught by the name of a study in the journal Contact Dermatitis, entitled “Preventing relapses of airborne allergic contact dermatitis to isothiazolinones in wall paint by painting over with an isothiazolinone‐free paint”.

(The link is here, for reference, but there is no abstract available at the time of writing.)

Curious, I emailed one of the three authors, and asked whether I could see either the paper or be given some additional information which could be useful to the MI-allergy community. 

Dr Ari Goldminz wrote back promptly and told me the following: 

In our article we present the case of a patient who developed airborne allergic contact dermatitis secondary to isothiazolinones in her apartment’s wall paint. The dermatitis persisted for approximately 8 months after initial application of the culprit paint and resolved after application of an isothiazolinone-free paint as a top layer. She experienced improvement after 2–3 weeks of the re-painting and had complete resolution of her dermatitis within 10 weeks.

Dr Goldminz promised to share further information and a copy of the paper when it was available, but I thought this worth sharing in the meantime, because:

  • Although the MI-free community is well aware that isothiazolinone-containing paint can off-gas for around three months, the fact that it can potentially do so for many more months than previously considered possible may be a cause for concern for those trying to recover from exposure.
  • While the ‘bisulphite wash’ approach is also well known, I’m not aware of any research into ‘over-painting’ an ‘unsafe’ wall with a safe paint — this paper at the very least suggests it is worth a go, although we have to be cautious as this is just one case study.

Painting has been the subject of many questions on the MI-allergy groups recently.

The safest approach is, I’m afraid, to avoid painting in the home, or to avoid spending time in recently painted areas as much as possible. 

If this is difficult or impractical, then carbon-enabled face masks may help a little — although there are no guarantees. See some suggestions here

Another possible help, along the same lines, is an air filter or air purifier — again there are no guarantees. But to have any hope of easing potential symptoms, you must use one with carbon-enabled filter. See some suggestions here

Opening windows is an obvious piece of advice; a slightly less one is to have a lot of houseplants in the environment, as many absorb toxins and improve the air quality generally. 

Remember too that if you’re having your home painted by a decorator, you are in charge, and you get to decide whether certain paint products are used. Hiring a branded decorator or one affiliated to a company, such as a Dulux painter, will mean you are restricted to using their products only — most (if not all) of which will not be safe. 

Our list of MI-free paints can be found here — and Auro, ECOS and Green Planet appear to be among the most popular and commonly recommended companies.

Dr Goldminz told me his paper does carry some names of paint companies with isothiazolinone-free options, so if there are any included that I don’t know about when he sends it to me, I will update the list and let you all know. 

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