The Welliora Campaign, a Students’ Association (SA) initiative  to promote mental health awareness through uplifting hydrophobic paint messages on campus walkways, suffered a major setback Thursday, when the University deemed the paint being used unsafe.

Assistant Director of Facilities Barry McHugh cited multiple concerns with the paint, including high flammability, respiratory hazards, and the inability for the paint to biodegrade.

“This is a very high risk,” McHugh said. “We just want to protect everybody. I wouldn’t even let my staff use it.”

The concern arose when McHugh came across the paint’s Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) online. It cautioned that during spraying, a respirator with a specific filter had to be used for the safety of the sprayer.

A look at the MSDS found that the paint could be potentially hazardous if contacted by any part of the body or ingested. A specific hazard indication was that ingestion or inhalation could result in death.

The MSDS also noted skin exposure risks, as well as the potential for the paint to build up a static charge, which could theoretically cause the paint to self-ignite.

The MSDS does not indicate a health risk once the paint has dried.

SA Vice President Lance Floto explained that no negative environmental impacts were expected from the paint, nor were the volunteers who did the spraying during Meliora Weekend considered to be at risk of the negative health effects.

Floto was still optimistic that the project would continue. At a planning meeting for the Welliora Campaign on Friday, Floto explained that spray chalk would be used instead of paint.

The spray chalk is not hydrophobic, but the campaign is seeking permission to chalk in areas that don’t normally get wet—areas normally off-limits to chalkers.

Other aspects of the Welliora Campaign have been unaffected by the change. Floto indicated that a banner is slated to go up outside  Starbucks the week of Nov. 7, and there are still plans for a photo campaign.

Floto also mentioned that the campaign is partnering with the University Counseling Center (UCC) to co-sponsor Depression Screening Day on Oct. 27.

Campaign volunteers are also optimistic about the future and success of Welliora.

“I’m glad it’s coming to fruition,” sophomore and SA Senator Nick Foti said. “I think that mental health awareness is something vital in a campus community that is high-stress and high-performing.”

Sophomore and SA Senator Gabriella Lipschitz praised how the project was coming together.

“The ability to collaborate art with education and awareness embodies the idea of Welliora,” Lipschitz said. “We can bring together people of all different backgrounds to bring attention to an issue that has not been given enough attention.”

Tagged: Mental Health

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