Art Hazards

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Safer practices for textile and leather artists

Artists working with fibers, fabric, leather, and textiles may work with hazardous chemical products that can harm their health, such as

  • azoic, basic, and disperse dyes that can cause allergies when inhaled or in contact with exposed skin.
  • fiber-reactive dyes that can cause severe respiratory allergies when inhaled as dust.
  • corrosive or cancer-causing vat dyes containing caustic soda or dichromate compounds.
  • corrosive mordants containing ammonia, caustic soda, bleach, formic acid, sodium bisulfate or sulfuric acid.
  • toxic mordants containing oxalic acid, potassium dichromate, thiourea or tannin.
  • toxic and flammable adhesives.
  • toxic mothballs containing the insecticides p-dichlorobenzene or naphthalene.
  • toxic fiber treatments containing formaldehyde.
  • toxic brominated flame retardants.

Protecting your skin and eyes

Protecting your lungs

  • Buy premixed dyes to control airborne dust.
  • Wax used in batik can release flammable and toxic vapors when it is overheated. To prevent this, heat wax just to melting.
  • When working with powdered dyes or corrosive mordants either use a glove box or local exhaust ventilation to protect you from hazardous dust. Glove BoxGlove boxes have been inexpensively made by many artists.
  • Keep dye containers closed and upright to keep toxic dusts from spilling.
  • Mop floors and wet wipe your tables after working with toxic pigment dusts.
  • See the Protecting Your Lungs page for more information on proper ventilation practices.

Use safer choices

  • Use safer mordants containing alum, sodium chloride, aluminum salts, or tin salts.
  • Control moths by storing freshly cleaned clothes in airtight containers. Vacuum drawers, closets and furniture to remove lint and hair where moths breed, then dispose of the bag promptly. For more information, see Mothballs: Proper Use and Alternative Controls for Clothes Moths. (PDF)
  • Use safer fabric-treatment and dye-setting products like alum, citric acid, cream of tartar, copperas, Glauber's salt, potash, sodium acetate, sodium carbonate, salt, or vinegar.
  • Use less toxic fire-retardant treatment chemicals containing boric acid, borate compounds, ammonium phosphate or ammonium chloride.

We can help

Safely dispose of jewelry and metalsmithing wastes