Is Acrylic Paint Toxic? How to Safely Use It

For an adult interested in using acrylic for painting, whether or not the paint is safe to use is not a big deal. But when it comes to children using the same thing, things are different. It has to be safe to be child-friendly. 

But the important question: is acrylic paint toxic? Well, it is, to some extent. But there are other acrylic variations too that are non-toxic and safe to come in contact with skin. 

In this guide, we will talk about the chemical composition of acrylic paint. It is important to know and understand the core properties of acrylic and why it can be harmful to use. 

Also, we will talk about ways to safely use acrylic yourself or give it to your children for playing. You would likely find the ideas here interesting.

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Why Is Acrylic Paint Toxic?

So, let us talk about the chemical compounds used in making acrylic. There are five common materials used in its making process. They are – 


Although chromium has in use in acrylic preparations for a long time, it is no longer necessary. With time, production systems changed, and newer, modern materials have been invented.

Now, you will find many acrylic brands that no longer use this element in their production processes. Look for the ingredients to find out.

The problem with chromium is that it is not safe for the skin. It is absorbed into the skin as soon as it comes into contact with it. The immediate reaction of this could be skin allergy, rashes, or disfiguration. 

The reactions depend on one person to another. People have different skins types so, the chemical reacts differently.


Don’t get me wrong. First of all, manganese is an essential element of our nutrition. It is safe to consume. But why is the inclusion of manganese in acrylic harmful, you might ask? 

Let me explain with a real-life example. For example, when you eat manganese through food, it is safe as long as the element is in its natural form. 

A small amount of it is important to have in our daily nutrition. It is also important to be strict with the daily amount. Change the amount, and you might suffer from manganese poisoning.

The problem with manganese inside paint is it does not come in its usual form. As it is mixed with paint and other solvents, its natural properties start to break down and form into a new chemical depending on the other chemicals used there.

The changed manganese variation could be risky when it comes to skin contact.


Cadmium used to be used while making acrylic but, that was in the past. You will not likely find many cadmium-based paints nowadays. Almost all the paints are cadmium-free now. 

If you, however, do find it in your paint’s list of ingredients, you should take some careful measures. 

Wear a face mask, preferably a gas mask, because cadmium emits gases that will hit your neurons and might attack your cardiovascular system. It can sometimes attack the lungs too. Avoid touching the paint, and do not breathe it.


Cobalt is mainly used to make metal-based items. It is heavily toxic. Check your acrylic paint for cobalt. Avoid it at all costs if your child is going to use the paint.


Lead is excellent for paint as it makes the colors last longer. It is not suitable for humans, though. It is toxic. So, look for a lead-free seal or any markings to make sure the paint you are buying is safe for skin contact.

These are the five main toxic elements used in acrylic paint. If you are an adult and can provide safety for yourself, you can feel free to use the paint containing these elements. 

But, it must be free from these elements if children will be using these paints. Otherwise, it will not be safe for them.

Consuming Non-toxic Acrylic Paint or Using It on Skin

The non-toxic label shouldn’t be considered safe to touch or consume. Some people confuse these terms. Let us explain them. 

Skin Toxicity

Non-toxic is a wholly confusing term. Non-toxic should mean free of toxins, right? But in the world of paints, it is not the case. If it were, it probably would have been better.

Different people have different types of skin. And is not possible to know what kind of reaction a paint will have when it comes in contact with a specific skin type until the two come in contact.

If you want to use acrylic on your skin, then avoid it. It might be somewhat safe for you if the paint has a low toxic rating with your skin, which you cannot be sure of until the reaction starts. 

However, it is better not to take any risk and avoid it entirely. Some excellent body paints are made of safe, medical-grade elements.


Acrylic should never be ingested. While non-toxic acrylic does not have poison, what it does have is something called methyl methacrylate or acrylic glass. 

It is dangerous if swallowed. Don’t give any acrylic to children who cannot grasp the fact that the paint is risky to consume, and swallowing it can cause an immediate toxic reaction.

Learn more about acrylic paints:

Can You Use Acrylic Paint on Plastic?

Is Acrylic Paint Safe to Use in Aquarium Decorations?

When considering aquarium decorations, the safety of the materials used is crucial. Acrylic paint in aquariums can be a safe option. It is water-resistant, remains intact underwater, and does not release toxins. However, it is essential to use aquarium-safe acrylic paint specifically formulated for underwater use to ensure the well-being of your aquatic pets.

Final Words

Now that you know why is acrylic paint toxic. You can, indeed, use it if you can take the safety measures. 

But try to avoid giving it to children below three or four years of age. Let them grow up a little first and teach them about the risks of acrylic toxication. Once they understand everything well, you can give it to them.

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