In the Bond film Goldfinger, actor Shirley Eaton’s character dies after getting covered in gold paint from head to foot by the baddies. We’re supposed to believe she suffocated, as her skin couldn’t breathe. But would this happen?
The skin can absorb oxygen, but only for its own use. Humans do not breathe through their skin and consequently will not suffocate after having their skin covered in airtight paint. If a person were plastered with gold paint in real life and died, the cause of death would probably be something else. Gold paint may contain heavy metals,
organic solvents such as turpentine, or other toxins that have a damaging effect on body cells. These substances are readily absorbed through the skin, from where they are taken to all corners of the body by the blood system. A less likely cause of deathcould also be overheating, as the paint retains body heat.
How can body paint be lethal?
Heavy metals: The epidermis absorbs substances from the surroundings such as heavy metals and solvents, which could be lethal in large quantities.
Vitamin D deficiency: The skin's production of vitamin D depends on sunlight. Hence, gold pain could cause lethal vitamin D deficiency over time.
Overheating: Sweat glands and blood vessels control body temperature. Gold would prevent the body from sweating and shedding body heat - this could be lethal in warm weather.
Source: Science Illustrated