Random thoughts on art, artists and educators

How safe is your art?

Artists work with almost every material under the sun, sometimes using traditional techniques, often experimenting in ways never before imagined. The dangers are real and can be deadly.

Ready to protect yourself and the environment? Check out these selected health and safety resources. We’ll add more, so visit again to learn the latest – and tell us what you think!

There’s an art to staying healthy…

Art can be made out of anything – but many materials contain harmful substances that can damage your health if stored, handled, or worked with unsafely.

Children too young to read or follow precautions are especially vulnerable. And art materials tested for adults may not be healthy for growing children.

Pregnant women are at special risk, too. Pregnancy may be affected by low levels of exposure to toxics. And developing fetuses are particularly sensitive.

Adults may have medical conditions which make them more vulnerable to toxic exposures. Cognitive disabilities may also prevent adults from taking needed precautions.

Because many toxins don’t show immediate symptoms but boost the risk of cancer or cause other damage over time, it’s important to learn about art hazards early on and make safety part of your lifelong technique.

It’s never to early or too late to start making art safely.

When customers ask, you need answers…

As a responsible retailer, you and your staff need to be able to advise customers on ways to work safely with the products you sell.

You should also be able to suggest safer alternatives.

Unfortunately, many art labels are less than helpful. Even those conforming to federal standards may not describe the long-term dangers or detail precautions.

As an employer, you also have a responsibility to your employees and your community to ensure safe handling, storage, and disposal of hazardous art materials. Local, state, and federal regulations often apply.

Where can you find information and help? Feel free to refer customers and staff to this site as a starting place. The published references and links you’ll discover here make it easier to access basic facts and gain guidance.

While nothing on this site substitutes for professional legal and medical advice, we hope its contents will help you encourage safer, healthier art work.

Students take creative risks, not health risks…
Exploring the potential of different materials is a vital part of art education. So is making sure that experimentation is safe and healthy.

Your own approach to health and safety will influence your students for the rest of their lives. Knowledge continues to grow about the harm toxic substances can do to humans and the natural environment. Whether you teach solo, in a K12 setting, or on the university level, take the time to integrate safety and health into your coursework and studios.

Many states have explicit rules banning toxic art materials in lower grades. Middle and high schools also may need to observe educational regulations. Universities, art centers, and art conservation programs are often obligated by law to design and communicate health, safety, and environmental plans protecting staff, students, and the larger community.

We hope this introductory web site promotes awareness and leads you to some of the resources you need. This is a learning experience for all of us. We welcome your comments and suggestions.