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Studio Safety

Tips on Creating a Safer Studio - Eliminating or Minimizing Art Studio Hazards

In recent years, artists have become much better informed about the potential hazards of the materials with which they work. Many artists, especially those who have had allergic reactions or health conditions caused by certain materials, are switching to less toxic media. Others are taking precautions they might not have previously considered. Labeling of art materials has improved considerably, too, spurred by the Labeling of Hazardous Art Materials Act of 1988.

Nevertheless, a good deal of confusion remains. When working with oils, for instance, the main toxins encountered are the solvents. Yet I have seen artists who've sworn off using lead white and paint wearing latex gloves continue to work with an open can of turpentine nearby.

As with other health issues, the art hazards information presented in the media can seem alarming, or focus on one risk-such as cadmium pigments-while minimizing others. I have prepared a short guide to using art materials safely, available free as Technical Leaflet #0000557. In it, I've covered the basics of safe materials use and given some resources for finding more specific information. An awareness of hazards you may have overlooked, common sense, and a resolve to change some bad habits (which is, of course, the hardest part!), can greatly improve your studio safety.

Studio Safety

An excellent book which gives specific, in-depth information on the whole range of art materials hazards is The Artist's Complete Health and Safety Guide by Monona Rossol.

An encouraging trend is the increasing number of safer art materials coming onto the market such as our low-soluble cadmium pigments, Talens H2Oils, MAX Grumbacher Oils, and ImagOn Photopolymer Intaglio Printing Film.

Safe disposal of art materials is also important. This topicis covered in some depth in Artist Beware, and we also have a free Technical Leaflet #0000558 which discusses hazardous materials disposal in the Seattle area. While many of its recommendations are place-specific, it will serve as a guideline and suggest the types of services you should look for in your community.