Ceramics artists may work with highly hazardous chemical products that can harm their health, such as:
- Silica dust from dry clay and glazes.
- Asbestos in clay slip.
- Glazes, stains and clay containing these toxic metals such as
- Antimony, barium, cadmium, chromium, cobalt, copper, lead, manganese, selenium and vanadium.
Protecting your skin and eyes
- Wear nitrile gloves when throwing clay and applying glazes if you have sensitive skin or are allergic to nickel or copper.
- Confine loose clothing and hair when working near motorized equipment.
- Use goggle lens that block infrared (wavelength of 600 to 6,000 nanometers) to reduce the risk of eye damage and cataracts. Infrared radiation is released by glowing-hot materials, like red-hot pottery and furnaces.
Protecting your lungs
- Use pre-wetted glazes and clay to reduce dust.
- Protect your lungs when
- Mixing dry clay.
- Glaze making.
- Pug milling.
- Place your kiln in a location that allows a local exhaust fan to exhaust fumes and heat directly outside
- Wet mop floors and wet wipe surfaces to reduce dust.
- Use a HEPA filter-equipped vacuum instead of sweeping up dust.
- Respirators and dust masks can provide additional protection from dust, smoke and fumes These articles from Clay Times explain the different types available and how to properly wear them.
Use safer choices
- Buy pre-wetted clay to reduce the risk of inhaling free silica dust.
- Buy glazes in a slurry form rather than as a dry powder to reduce the risk of inhaling toxic metal dusts.
- Use glazes that are less toxic:
- The safest metals are iron, calcium, sodium and potassium.
- Cadmium, barium, selenium and arsenic produce more fumes than other metals due to their low melting and boiling points.
- Keep containers closed to prevent spills of toxic liquids and powders.
- Visit the Art Supplies page to learn safety warnings on product labels.
We can help
Safely dispose of ceramics wastes