Bob Egelko, SF Chronicle
2020 UPDATE: This post gets a fair amount of traffic via Google searches for spray paint and air quality issues. Glad you stopped by! Recently, Stencil Archive has added other posts about spray paint and environmental/health issues: A Material Safety Data Sheet for Belton and MTN 94 paints, and an article on aerosols from National Geographic. Read on.
Paint it green
Do graffiti artists express themselves at the expense of our air quality?
Research by a local air quality specialist suggests graffiti -- and the efforts to cover it up -- might damage the air more than some industries that are monitored by the federal government. The turf war between graffiti artists and local officials in Clark County produced an estimated 31 tons of emissions in 2008, according to Algirdas Leskys, a senior air quality specialist with Clark County, who did the research on his own time. Paint produces volatile organic compounds, which are the precursors of the ozone that turns the air yellow and thick. The majority of the fumes came not from the graffiti itself but from the paint used to cover it up, he said.