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Health Hazzards, Studio Safety and Proper Disposal of Paints and Solvents

Art Solvents

If life were fair art would be a naturally green endeavor. You could paint a mural, mosaic a table, or glaze your ceramics without a care. But this is the real world, and paints, glues, and glazes can pose hidden health hazards that we should be aware of.

Labels to Look For (and to Look Out For)

All art supplies sold in the US must bear the phrase, "conforms to ASTMD 4236," confirming that they have been properly labeled for chronic health hazards, in accordance with the federal Labeling Hazardous Art Materials Act (LHAMA).

To go even further when it comes to art materials and safety, also look for labels from the Art and Creative Materials Institute (ACMI). ACMI is a nonprofit membership organization made up of art supply manufacturers, who voluntarily agree to have their materials evaluated by independent toxicologists and tested by accredited, independent labs for safety every five years, as well as randomly and whenever product formulas change.

Here are a few places where you can find eco-friendly art supplies:

  1. Natural Earth Paint has non-toxic, eco art supplies.

  2. Jerr's Artarama has a variety of eco art supplies for the serious artist including easels, lighting and air purifiers.

  3. Utrech. They offer a variety of art paper, sketchbooks and paints that are eco-friendly.

  4. Eco House has a couple products geared towards painters who wish to be a little more eco with nature based solvents and thinners for sale.

  5. Dick Blick even has a variety of Earth friendly portfolios and artist supplies.

  6. Michaels stores often have eco-friendly sketchbooks, pencils, paint brushes, and entire kits of eco-artist supplies.

Studio Safety - What you need to do to stay safe

  • Substitution or elimination of the hazardous agents

  • Exhaust ventilation, process enclosure, dilution ventilation

  • Store chemical products properly. Containers should have screw-top lids

  • Store acids in separate cabinet and in glass or plastic containers with a plastic lid

  • Flammable liquid storage - lids tightly closed when not in use to prevent vapors from igniting

  • Personal protective equipment (e.g., respiratory protection, gloves, eye protection)

  • Wet-wipe surfaces rather than sweeping or vacuuming (and if you must use a vacuum, make sure it has a HEPA filter). Avoid carpet use.

CERF has created a Studio Safety Guide that helps protect you and your art. Take advantage of this helpful tool.

Proper Paint Disposal

Golden Paints, one of the leading producers of artist grade paint has a handy list of disposal tips for acrylic paint. These include how to best cleaning your tools and instructions for disposing acrylic paints.

Golden Paints also has instructions for removing acrylic from water before dumping it

Many artists have questions about solvent safety. Outside of water, there are no totally safe solvents, though there are some that are significantly safer than others. Jackson's is a wonderful resource for comparing the safety of solvents and how to best care for your materials.

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