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Art Hazards

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play Painting video series

play Understanding toxic exposures

play Avoiding toxic products

play Toxic metals in art materials

play Toxic solvents in art

play Glues and adhesives

play TSiA – studio ventilation

play TSiA – personal protective equipment

Painting and Pastels

Painters and pastel artists may work with hazardous chemical products that can harm their health, such as:

  • Turpentine, paint thinner, lacquer thinner, citrus solvent and other toxic and combustible solvents
  • Flammable and toxic spray fixatives and adhesives
  • Pigment powders and pastel sticks containing these toxic metals:
    • Antimony, cadmium, lead and nickel
  • Toxic driers in aqua oils and other products

Protecting your skin and eyes

  • Wear chemical-resistant gloves when working with solvents, spray fixatives and spray adhesives
  • Wear a snug-fitting dust mask or respirator when sanding dry paint from surfaces

Protecting your lungs

  • Oil and aqua oil painters should position your palette and easel close to an exhaust fan to carry solvent vapors away.
  • Keep containers of solvents and thinners covered when not in use to reduce evaporation.
  • Switch to water-based or water-washable materials to reduce toxic solvent vapors.
  • Only use aerosol sprays with local exhaust ventilation.
  • Protect your lungs.

Use safer choices

  • Purchase pigments already mixed in liquid or wax to control dust.
  • Choose water-soluble paints.
  • When transferring solvents into another container, attach a label with the original product container’s name and warnings, like flammable or toxic,
  • Store and use flammable solvents away from sources of heat and electrical outlets.
  • Avoid solvents with the words "chloride" or "chloro-" in their names.
  • Water-washable oils or light oils (like baby oil or walnut oil) are preferable to solvents.
  • Odorless mineral spirits are a safer alternative to toxic turpentine for paint thinning and brush cleaning.
  • Apply solvents with a brush, rather than spray-applying.
  • Keep containers closed when not in use.

We can help

Safely dispose of painting and pastel wastes

  • Empty containers can be disposed in the trash once almost all the materials they held are gone.
  • Dispose of partially full containers of aerosols, paints, solvents and adhesives as hazardous waste
  • Rags contaminated with oils should be wrung outand then hung to dry. Once dry, dispose in the trash.
  • Rags that are slightly contaminated with solvents can be disposed in the trash, once they are dried.
  • Collect rags that are visibly wet with flammable solvents in a metal container with a tight-fitting lid and dispose as hazardous waste.
  • Brush washing:
    • Wipe excess paint from brush.
    • Soak the brush vertically in paint thinner or water inside a container.
    • Cover with a plastic lid that has slits cut in it that brushes can slide through.
    • Settle the pigments.
    • Decant the good thinner into a second settling container so it can be used again.
    • Pour the pigment sludge into a waste container for eventual disposal.
  • How to dispose of your art studio wastes