Art Hazards

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play Chemical hazards in ceramics

play Toxic materials in ceramics

play Toxic materials in ceramics – metals of concern

play TSiA – studio ventilation

play TSiA – personal protective equipment


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.
      • Kiln-firing.
      • 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