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Aerosol safety and removal

Spray paint usually contains volatile organic compounds (VOCs)—often highly toxic. Some graffiti artists who regularly work with spray paint develop neurological problems due to overexposure to VOCs. An article from graffiti.org contains more information on the subject and recommends that spray painters wear a filter mask when painting. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) also have protective guidelines for working with spray paint.

Some heavy duty permanent markers also contain harmful VOCs such as xylene, although the quantity of VOC released will probably be less than with spray paint. Paint markers are another concern, while on the surface they may seem to be less toxic due to lack of particularization, they also contain chemicals like xylene which can be absorbed through the skin (not just through inhalation). Those who use permanent or paint markers should check the label and follow the recommended safety instructions. Care should also be made to reduce skin contact; latex or vinyl gloves are useful for this purpose.

It is not just graffiti artists who must deal with these volatile chemical compounds; the compounds designed to remove graffiti can also be highly toxic. The maintenance workers who work with these substances, however, are usually trained to use them safely. To remove graffiti they generally use techniques such as high pressure cleaning or paint thinning solvents such as Acetone or Toluene; they may also paint over or, as a prevention, apply a specially formulated anti-graffiti coating to the surface of high-risk areas.

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