Thank you for attending the 11th Annual Green Gifts Fair! We look forward to seeing you next year!

Guide to Using Art & Craft Materials Safely

Excepts by Daniel Smith and Informed by The EPA
Artist/Author

–Excerpted from Artists’ Materials and EPA.gov

In recent years, many people have become more informed about the potential hazards of art and craft materials to themselves and to the environment. Many artists, particularly those who have had allergic reactions or health conditions caused by certain materials, are switching to less toxic media. Others are concerned about the pollution and run-off into our water from using toxic art supplies.

The “Labeling of Hazardous Art Materials Act” of 1988 required that any art and craft materials that present a chronic hazard bear a WARNING statement of the hazard, and an additional warning that it is inappropriate for use by children. All arts and crafts materials must identify the hazardous ingredients, provide guidelines for safe use, identify that the product complies with Federal law, and provide a telephone number for the consumer to request additional information. This information must appear on the label, the packaging, or the display for the product. Although this law has been in effect for nearly 13 years, there are still products on the market, especially imported art products, which are not in compliance.

Craft Supplies

Permanent felt-tip markers, rubber cement, spray fixatives, powdered clay, and instant papier-mache are standard arts and crafts supplies that contain chemicals that are hazardous if inhaled, absorbed, or swallowed. Children are especially prone to mishandling, chewing, or swallowing art materials and decorating their hands and faces with them.

The Arts & Crafts Materials Institute has successfully sponsored a certification program, certifying that products are nontoxic and meet quality and performance standards. Products in their certification program which have earned the CP (certified product) or AP (approved product) seal include crayons, finger paints, chalks, modeling materials, block printing inks and media, adhesives, acrylic and oil paints and more. Products bearing the AP seal are nontoxic even if ingested and meet or exceed specific quality standards of material, workmanship, working qualities, and color. Products without these seals but which state they are “nontoxic” indicate only that the product is not acutely toxic and may still make a person sick if swallowed.

In order to choose safe art supplies to keep at home, for school projects, or just for fun, consider the following tips:

Oil Painting

Many painters have switched from oils to watercolors or acrylics. Altering the way you work with oils can also substantially reduce the risks associated with the medium. The main toxins encountered are the solvents–such as Turpentine, Mineral Spirits and Citrus Thinner – which can contribute to long-term health problems. Ventilation is important when using these solvents. A new product on the market, called Nox-Out, may help.

Consider using separate brushes for various colors rather than washing a brush in turpentine before switching colors. For washing brushes, use sparing amounts of solvent, or try some of the new non-toxic or less-toxic brush cleaners such as the MAX Grumbacher Oil Colors reduce solvent exposure. Minimize skin contact with paints which can contain hazardous pigments by wearing latex gloves. Lastly, buy only what is needed, mark containers with the purchase date, and use older inventory first.

Pastel Painting

All of the safety suggestions given for oil painting apply to pastels too. Since pastel painting is such a tactile experience, it is doubly important to reduce skin contact by wearing latex gloves. Pastel painting creates pastel dust, some of which contains hazardous components such as heavy metal pigments. When inhaled, this dust is detrimental to the respiratory system. Always wipe up pastel dust with damp cloths to keep the dust from becoming airborne again. Using a respirator is also advised. It’s also smart to have painting clothes such as a smock or coveralls that you can remove in the studio, to avoid bringing the dust into other living areas. Wash painting clothes separately. Most fixatives are sold in aerosol cans and contain volatile components, and all disperse into fine airborne mists. Pump-type bottles are the safest.

Water-based Painting

Since they do not involve solvents or dusts, water media such as acrylic paints, watercolors, and gouache are among the safest art materials to use. Some people may be allergic to the small percentages of formaldehyde or ammonia found in acrylic paints, or the gum binders found in watercolors and gouache. Exhaust ventilation is important, and gloves, goggles and an apron are recommended if you are mixing your own paints.

Printmaking

Printmaking processes range from the simple to the technically complex. Relief printing with water-based inks is a safe activity suitable for children, while oil-based relief printing, etching and lithographic processes involve solvents, acids and chemicals. It is very important for printmakers to become familiar with the possible dangers of their materials.

Disposal

Many art and hobby materials require special disposal. If you are a professional artist or craftsperson, even if you work at home, you may not be entitled to use your local household hazardous waste facility. Check with your local solid waste utility or health department for disposal instructions. See: HOUSE & HOME: Solid & Hazardous Waste

Sidebar: Alternatives

Avoid… powdered tempera paints, pastels, chalks, or dry markers that create dust
Substitute… natural dyes, such as dyes made from vegetables, onions skins, tea, flowers, and other food dyes

Avoid… instant paper-mache (may contain asbestos fibers and lead from pigments in colored printing inks)
Substitute… paper-mache made from black-and-white newspaper and library paste, white paste, or flour and water paste

Avoid… aerosol sprays
Substitute… brushes and water-based paints in splatter techniques

Avoid… oil-based paints, turpentine, benzene, toluene, and rubber cement and its thinner
Substitute… water-based paints, glues, inks, etc.

Read Up

The Artistic Complete Health and Safety Guide, Monona Rossol, 1990

Artist Beware, Michael McCann, 1992

Craft Materials & Children’s Art Supplies Can Be Toxic, Free, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Center for Occupational Hazards, 5 Beekman Street, New York, NY 10038

Act Locally

The Art & Creative Materials Institute (ACMI) P.O. Box 479 Hanson, MA 781-293-4100 www.acminet.org

Daniel Smith Artists’ Materials P.O. Box 84268 Seattle, WA 206-223-9599 www.danielsmith.com

Alternatives

Avoid… powdered tempera paints, pastels, chalks, or dry markers that create dust
Substitute… natural dyes, such as dyes made from vegetables, onions skins, tea, flowers, and other food dyes

Avoid… instant paper-mache (may contain asbestos fibers and lead from pigments in colored printing inks)
Substitute… paper-mache made from black-and-white newspaper and library paste, white paste, or flour and water paste

Avoid… aerosol sprays
Substitute… brushes and water-based paints in splatter techniques

Avoid… oil-based paints, turpentine, benzene, toluene, and rubber cement and its thinner
Substitute… water-based paints, glues, inks, etc.

Art Supplies

Our Sponsors