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RI dorm students unwell after inhaling fumes from fresh paint on room doors

Students in the dormitory in Raffles Institution (RI) have reported feeling unwell from inhaling paint fumes after their room doors were repainted while they were living there.

After painting works began in March, four Eunoia Junior College (EJC) students living in RI Boarding in Bishan said they developed a dry cough, sore throat, dizziness, blocked ears and watery eyes, and also had difficulty sleeping, reported Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao on Monday.

One male student told Zaobao that he was diagnosed with an upper respiratory tract infection earlier in April.

The paint job is part of the dormitory’s regular refurbishment, and included the repainting of room doors, staircase railings and the interior of lifts, according to Zaobao.

Three female EJC students told Zaobao that they were not notified about the painting works, and that there were no signs to warn residents of the wet paint.

A student, who declined to be named, said: “I only found out about the painting on the day itself when I came back from school. My door was open and the paint stuck to my hands.”

Male students said they were notified two days before painting began.

“It’s been more than a week and the smell of paint is still very apparent,” a male student told Zaobao on April 4.

Another student said that a worker started painting his door without advising him to leave the room.

Each room is about 20 sq m, the students said. They added that Nippon Paint was used.

In response to queries from The Straits Times, Nippon Paint senior adviser Lynn Lee said the paint used at the dormitory was the company’s Crystalux wood and metal paint.

“Solvent-based and oil-based paints such as Nippon Paint Crystalux will evaporate solvents into the atmosphere while they are drying, and precautions must be taken in order to prevent discomfort,” she said.

The paint needs at least 18 hours to dry completely with “ample supply of fresh air in enclosed areas to clear the paint fumes in the air”, she added.

Ms Lee said for a place like RI Boarding, which has live-in occupants in less than ideal ventilation conditions, she would recommend the use of water-based paint that emits less odour and near-zero volatile organic compounds instead.

“Alternatively, the trade customer may wish to consider adjusting the painting schedule such that there are no live-in occupants.”

An RI spokesman told Zaobao that it has postponed painting works for the rest of the dormitory and will provide air purifiers to students who request them. They will also monitor the health of the dormitory residents.

The Straits Times has contacted RI for comment.

Raffles InstitutionSTUDENTSHealth and well-being