Art and shop classes may expose students to potentially hazardous chemicals and dust found in some of the materials they use. These include solvents such as acetone and turpentine found in markers and thinners, heavy metals such as lead and cadmium found in pigments and pottery glazes, and harmful dust found in wood, clays and glazes. Glues, spray fixatives, matting adhesives and harsh photograhy chemicals are also of concern.
Exposure to these chemicals if inhaled, ingested or absorbed through skin can cause health problems such as skin rashes, lung damage, and poisoning. Activities such as spraying, sanding and dry-mixing can release dust particles and chemical vapors into the air.
General safety tips:
Read and understand the label and MSDS (material safety data sheet); follow instructions; use products in accordance.
Use the least toxic product available.
Use products with the ACMI (Arts and Crafts Material Institute) label with AP (approved label): http://acminet.org .
Use adequate ventilation in the classroom so that contaminants are removed from the air.
Label and store supplies properly.
Keep dust to a minimum by damp mopping, use a HEPA vacuum, cleanup thoroughly.
Do not allow eating or drinking in the classroom.
Clean up spills immediately.
Limit/supervise access by young children to solvent-based glues, adhesives paints and fixatives.
Art and Craft Materials to Avoid and Recommended Substitutes
Avoid: Products that come in powder or aerosol form. Examples include clay in dry form, powdered paints, glazes, pigments, and aerosols (spray paints & fixatives); Substitute: Wet or liquid brush-on products.
Avoid: Hazardous solvent-based products. Examples include rubber cement, turpentine and other paint thinners, and permanent and white board markers; Substitute: Water-based glues, paints, markers.
Avoid: Materials that contain lead or other heavy metals. Examples include some paints, glazes, and enamels; Substitute: Products that do not contain heavy metals.
Avoid: Cold water dyes, powdered dyes, or commercial dyes dissolved in solvents; Substitute: Vegetable dyes (onion skins, etc.).
Avoid: Instant papier-mâché, which may contain asbestos fibers or lead or other metals from pigments in colored printing inks; Substitute: Papier-mâché made from black and white newspaper, or white paste.
Avoid: Spray fixative for matting artwork; Substitute: Brush on adhesives.
Art & Craft Safety Guide (CPSC)
US DHHS Household Products Database: Arts & Crafts
Online Health and Safety in the Arts Library