Safety: Pigments and Studio Habits

  • This thread is for tips on keeping safe in the studio…  Feel free to add ideas and ask questions.

    We are in the business of creating our own finishes, and so deal with pigments and toxicity — for antiquities.  We’ve both experienced the down side of not being careful and so I thought to offer this thread to people to think about safety.

    Many of the brands we love pride themselves on being interested in safety for artists/environmental concerns (QoR, Daniel Smith, Gamblin, M.Graham.)  Because I lived on wells for many years, I am used to choosing pigments that have low impact or are non-toxic.  But you need to be aware that not all brands do this, and then read the MSDS on the toxic pigments so that you care for yourselves, your critters (do they drink the water or paints??), kids, and wells.

    Understand that even how Cadmium, for instance, is processed can determine how safe it is… wether it can be absorbed by a digestive system.  This I learned recently from Gamblin when I had to use several toxic minerals in oil paints to match a historic object and was concerned because I notoriously wipe my hands on objects when painting.

    For easy identification by consumers, ACMI uses these seals on products approved under its certification program:

    Products bearing the AP Product Seal of ACMI are certified in a program of toxicological evaluation by a medical expert to contain no materials in sufficient quantities to be toxic or injurious to humans or cause acute or chronic health problems. This program is reviewed by ACMI’s Toxicological Advisory Board. These products are certified by ACMI to be labeled in accordance with the chronic hazard labeling standard, ASTM D-4236 and Federal law, P.L. 100– 695. In addition, there is no physical hazard as defined within 29CFR 1910.1200©.

    Products bearing the CL-/-HL Cautionary Label-/-Health Label (Cautions Required) Seal of The Art & Creative Materials Institute, Inc. (ACMI) are certified to be properly labeled in a program of toxicological evaluation by a medical expert. This program is reviewed by ACMI’s Toxicological Advisory Board. These products are certified by ACMI to be labeled in accordance with the chronic hazard labeling standard, ASTM D-4236, and Federal law, P.L. 100–695.

    All this came up due to a discussion on Kremer paints.  They cater to professionals in a variety of other professional venues.  We buy pigments (not paints) from them in order to color shellac and other mediums for antique reparation.  Their paints are not geared toward low toxicity.  They come with explicit warnings and say directly what may happen if you use them without gloves, etc.  (Example MSDS: ) Just saying…  These are NOT like DS or QoR!

    Cheaper brands and brands bought overseas may not have good ratings from a toxic stance… So check it out!  And don’t lick your brushes!!!

    When we lived on wells we allowed toxic pigments to evaporate covered by a mesh (to keep bees and birds and critters out), and once a year ran them to the toxic dump.

    PS if you decide to make your own paints read about safety and spring for a proper mask, possible a face mask, as pigments can get into the system though the eyes as well.

    I have cats, and now kittens.  They explore and seem to have NO sense at all about drinking / eating things they should not have, and refuse to be trustworthy about staying off my desk (when I am not looking.).   This is  how I ensure I have lots of clean water and no cat tongues can reach in… four discarded spice jars in a container, each half-full, water is changed 1-2/day, and I move from dirty to cleaner as I go around the container.

    Kate, thanks for sharing this valuable information.

    Yuppers… I hope to hear good ideas from others too!

    Great thread! This is good information to know!

    Thank you Kate for this information. I used to paint in oils, but gave it up due to the toxicity. It’s good to know that we need to be careful when purchasing our watercolour paints, too. I appreciate the head’s up.

    You should check out Gamblin Oils, Susan! Amazing.  Starting with their Odorless Mineral Spirits.


    Thanks for this info. Very helpful.

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