This includes both water- and solvent-based inks and markers.
Oil paints, encaustic and egg tempera use linseed oil, wax and egg respectively as vehicles, although solvents are often used as a thinner and for cleanup. Turpentine and mineral spirits are used in oil painting mediums, for thinning and for cleaning brushes.
- See section about pigment hazards.
- All solvents can cause defatting of the skin and dermatitis from repeated exposure. Turpentine can also cause allergies and be absorbed through the skin.
- Acute inhalation of mineral spirits, turpentine and other solvents can cause dizziness, headaches, drowsiness, nausea, intoxication, coma, and respiratory irritation.
- Chronic inhalation of solvents can result in decreased coordination, behavioral changes and brain damage. Chronic inhalation of turpentine causes kidney damage, respiratory irritation and allergies. Odorless mineral spirits and turpenoids are less hazardous.
- Ingestion of turpentine or mineral spirits can be fatal. In mineral spirits this is usually due to chemical pneumonia caused by breathing in the mineral spirits after vomiting.
- Natural resins (copal, damar, rosin, Japanese Lacquer) may cause skin irritation or allergies. Rosin dust can cause asthma.
- Encaustic involves suspending pigments in molten wax. If the wax is overheated flammable wax vapors and fumes are produced, which are strong respiratory irritants.
- Epoxy paints consist of a resin component containing the pigment and a hardening component. The epoxy resin may contain diglycidyl ethers which are irritants, suspected carcinogens, and damges bone marrow. Epoxy causes skin and respiratory irritation.
- When possible, replace turpentine or mineral spirits with less toxic odorless mineral spirits. Mineral spirits is also less flammable than turpentine.
- “Citrus” and “pine” solvents are safer, but are still irritants to the skin and eyes.
- Artists should position their easels near a window with a fan exhausting at work level toi pull the vapors away from your face.
- Techniques such as turpentine washes will require a lot of ventilation because they result in large amounts of vapors in a short period of time.
- Wear neoprene gloves while cleaning brushes with mineral spirits or turpentine.
- Used solvent is reclaimed by allowing paint to settle and pouring off the clear solvent.
- Paint can be removed from your hands with baby oil, then soap and water.
- Wax should be heated to the minimum temp. needed for proper flow of paint. Do not heat with open flame or hot plate.
- During pregnancy and nursing use water-based paints to avoid exposure to solvents.
Paints are essentially powder pigments mixed with an oil or binder. Dry pigments are especially hazardous because they are easily inhaled and ingested.
Pigments vs. Hues
Most paints do not contain metals and are considered non-toxic. If a paint is called a HUE (e.g. chromium yellow hue) there is no toxic metal. Names containing PIGMENT are more hazardous and should be handled according to MSDS recommendations.
- Poisoning can occur if toxic pigments are inhaled or ingested.
- Examples of a toxic inorganic pigments are: cadmium, chrome and zinc yellow, lamp and carbon black, white lead, cobalt, cadmium, and manganese. Anemia, gastrointestinal problems, peripheral nerve damage, kidney and reproductive damage, skin irritation, ulceration, and many cancers can result from irresponsible handling of these materials.
- The long-term hazards of modern synthetic organic pigments has not been well studied.
Routes of Ingestion
- eating, drinking or smoking while working
- inadvertent hand to mouth contact (chewing nails)
- pointing the paint brush with the lips
- spraying, heating, or sanding without ventilation
- Obtain MSDS and follow recommendations on all paints. The name on the tube may not truly represent the chemical pigments present.
- Use the least toxic pigments possible. NO LEAD OR CARCINOGENS!
- Avoid using or mixing dry pigments and wet down then wipe up any spills.
- Avoid using food containers to store paints and pigments.
Water-bases use water as the solvent: watercolor, acrylic, gouache, tempera and casein.
- In addition to the pigment, water-based paints contain their own chemical hazards.
- Acrylic paints contain a small amount of ammonia and formaldehyde. Some sensitive people may experience irritation or allergies to these chemicals.
- Casein paint uses ammonium hydroxide; irritant to skin, eye, digestive, and respiratory.
- All water-based paint contains preservatives that can be allergens to some people.
- If you add your own preservative to paint, avoid using sodium fluoride, phenol or mercury compounds. Small amount of pine oil works for short periods of time.
- If you experience eye, nose or throat irritation while using acrylics, opening a window or work near exhaust fans.
- If you mix casein paints or use ammonia, wear gloves, goggles and a protective apron.