Art materials can be hazardous to our health. It is important for artists to educate themselves on the hazards of the tools and materials they use in their creative practice. While this post will focus mainly on the toxicity and hazardous content that makes up our creative materials, be aware that the creation of our work can cause health problems as well. Body positioning for extended hours, dangers of tools, and other elements of creating our work can be just as dangerous as the toxic components.
Art Materials Laws: The Labeling of Hazardous Art Materials Act (LHAMA) passed in 1988 required manufacturers to post warning labels on their products based on voluntarily adopted standards. The law requires art supplies to be labeled if they could cause chronic health problems. Unfortunately, there is a big loophole to his act. Manufacturers can avoid this by selling their products to a hardware store instead of an art store. So, picking up a few supplies from the local home improvement store can cause unknown hazardous exposure.
Basic Guidelines: Here are some basic best practices to begin a healthier studio practice. Most of these are pretty obvious but a good reminder:
- Read the labels and follow the directions on the bottle
- Properly store materials as per the directions
- Don’t eat or drink near your art materials
- Use protective clothing when handling hazardous materials: Gloves, glasses, jumpsuit, and consider having proper ventilation
Resources: It’s important to read up on the health hazards associated with your specific creative practice. The U. S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has published a free guide to help artists and creatives learn about the hazards of art materials. You can access the free guide here Art and Health Safety Guide.
Below are some general creative health reading materials. Click on the images for links to each book so you can read more about this resource.