Reply To: Pigment Safety (Use and Cleaning)

Sandra is right on one account, and that is most of the danger from pigments comes from their dry state, when they are being mixed.  BUT, there are some areas where it is good to know your toxicity and to take precautions.  In my other life I am a conservator who uses dangerous chemicals in small amounts.

If you need a mask, do not buy one from the hardware store.  Go to a place like 3M and have one fitted with the right cartridges, and change the cartridges.  If you are playing with toxic DRY pigments get a full face mask.  powder gets into eyes too.  They will tell you how to test for fit but every time you put it on, test it the way they show you.

BUT, most of us don’t need this!  So check the following…

Break yourself of the habit of tipping your brushes in your mouth.

Are you on a well?  If so get out of the habit of wiping your brushes on clothing and wipe them on paper towel which can go to the trash… also wipe your brushes thoroughly of pigments instead of just dipping them into water and washing.  When I was on a well I stayed away from cadmiums and cobalts and a couple of others, most of which was not that hard for me because a lot of them are also opaque.  I didn’t want to mess with the process.  Remember that a little bit will get into your well and that won’t hurt — but take the precautions of not just dumping a bunch of cadmium water into a well.  wiping the brushes clean first is really easy.

If you have a seriously compromised immune system then I wouldn’t use them, my opinion.  There are wonderful colors that are not toxic.  I don’t mean a bad cold, but HIV, cancer, etc — where you are trying to keep your system strong.

And finally, keep all of this away from your pets.  It isn’t cute for a cat/dog to drink out of paint water.  Remember that things which might not harm you will kill birds and small animals.  I have nosy cats and even if I didn’t I have to assume at some point they will get up to look around.
I do not leave my wet washes open, I cover them (see my choice for this due to the stacking qualities — I keep one clean for just that, stacking).
My water is a setup which they cannot get their tongues into!  Spice jars in a taller plastic bin (a plastic shop will have these — take your spice jars to see if they fit).  A nice perk to this setup is that I also work the ater from dirty to clean throughout the day and have to change water less often.
Oh and BTW, I now have to cover my pan paints as well because Yaman is a crow-cat and loves to bring me everything he finds on my desk.  ARGH.