Some old paint was lead based, which we later found out lead to many problems for animals and humans that were exposed to it, especially if they were to consume it on accident (mostly children).
Many paints have harmful compounds that can leak from the can with paint or may be wasted into the environment if the paint washes off from where it was placed.
There are new paints that are organic or safe for the environment. Some of these do not even have bad smells.
Paint that was purchased before 1978 might still contain lead. You can purchase a kit to determine if your old paint does contain lead. Some oil-based paint may contain toxic ingredients that should not be ingested, and may be quite flammable. Latex and water-based paints should be safe, however, a small percentage of latex paint contained mercury (before 1990) so be wary if you are trying to dispose of unused paint. In terms of fumes, it is most important to have good ventilation when the paint is still wet. I haven’t read of any dry paint giving off toxic fumes.
Virtually everything gives of gases or leaches smething over time. That is why your paint fails and eventually falls off. Some Geochemical reactions are known to take place over Eons which have never been duplicated in the lab.
The question is how much and when. To be safe you should dispose of old paint in a hazardoud material facilty, but don;t lose a lot of sleep over being poisoned by your wall paint.
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