Faculty of Arts

Visual and Performing Arts Health and Safety Manual

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Health & Safety Policy Statement
  3. Responsibilities
  4. Safety in the Arts
  5. Personal Protective Equipment
  6. Painting, Drawing and Foundation
  7. Sculpture and Workshop
  8. Photography
  9. Printmaking
  10. Ceramics

1. Introduction

Health and safety are important issues and no one in the Thompson Rivers University has a right to endanger either themselves or anyone else through uninformed or negligent use of instruments, materials, or machinery. This manual was initially adapted and edited from the Fine Art Health and Safety Manual of the University of Victoria and from the Ceramics Data Sheet published by The Center for Safety in the Arts in New York. It has been developed to provide basic information on material used, equipment/machinery, and safe practices and procedures in the Visual Arts Department. Hardcopies of this manual is also available at the TRU Bookstore. It is a basic requirement that all faculty, staff and students read and understand this manual before beginning to work in the Department of Visual Art at TRU.

If you have any questions about the contents, please contact the TRU Health and Safety Office or the Department Chairperson. Anyone who uses tools, materials, or machinery in a hazardous or potentially hazardous manner may be immediately barred from further access to the studio facilities in which the negligent activity occurred and may be subject to additional disciplinary action.

2. Health & Safety Policy Statement

2.1 Health and Safety Policy

It is the policy of the Department to take all reasonable steps to:

  • protect the safety of all faculty, staff, students and visitors against work accidents and occupational hazards;
  • comply with all relevant statutes, regulations and standards of government agencies and other regulatory authorities representing Occupational Health and Safety;
  • give priority to safe working conditions and job safety practices in the planning, direction, and implementation of University activities;
  • formulate and carry out continuing effective safety programs appropriate to University operations.

Failure to observe the Departmental Health and Safety policies and procedures may result in disciplinary action.

2.2 Studio Regulations

  • there shall be no food or drink in any studio including all darkrooms;
  • all supplies, tools, equipment, machinery and furniture shall be respected:
  • any portable items may only be removed from one studio to another provided that it is properly signed out and properly returned within the same working period;
  • no equipment may be removed from the building without the permission of the Chair or the Lab Faculty in charge;
  • clean up shall be done immediately after finishing a project;
  • posted hours must be observed;
  • special access should be requested through the Department Chair one week in advance.

Violation of any of the above may result in a restriction of access to facilities and / or equipment.


Safety is the responsibility of everyone on campus. WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Material Information System) training and SDS Database (Safety Data Sheet) are available.

Specific responsibilities are as follows:
3.1     Students
Student in the Visual Arts shall:

  • comply with the departmental regulations associated with all of their University related activities; 
  • seek guidance from their instructors or lab faculty concerning safety related knowledge and skills required to ensure safe performance in their activities; 
  • attend safety training programs and meetings as required; 
  • immediately report to their instructor or lab faculty any accident, near miss, hazardous practice or condition withrespect to their activities;
  • comply with all TRU Health and Safety policies and procedures, as well as those safety policies and procedures of other institutions when they are engaged in activities at another institution

3.2     Instructors
Instructors in the Visual Arts Department shall:

  • comply with the departmental regulations associated with all of their University related activities; 
  • seek guidance from their department chair or other resource persons concerning safety issues and/or skills required to ensure safe performance of their duties and direction of student activities; 
  • attend safety training programs and meetings as requires; 
  • immediately report to their department chair and the OH&S any accident, near miss, hazardous practice or condition with respect to their activities; 
  • comply with all TRU Health and Safety policies and procedures, as well as those safety policies  and procedures of other institutions when they are engaged in activities at another institution.

3.3     Visitors 
Visitor shall comply with the University's Safety Policy and Procedures and all other pertinent departmental regulations.
Children are not recommended to be in any studios but if they must, they should be closely supervised by their parents/guardians.
3.4     Check in Procedures
It is necessary for anyone working in the Visual Arts area after hours (evenings and weekends) to be authorized by their instructing supervisor and to use a method of checking in with their instructing supervisor or Security (250-828-5033) at appropriate intervals. More information:

Learn more about working alone


In order to take preventative measures it is important to note the following:

First Aid

Contact Security for First Aid

Should you be directly involved or witness an incident, please ensure you report and notify your instructor as soon as possible.

If an Incident Happens:

  1. Prioritize any injury
  2. Notify your instructor
  3. Report to OSEM via incident report form
  4. Participate in investigation

4.1     How Chemicals Enter the Body: 

This is the major route of entry for airborne chemicals. The chemicals can have a direct effect  on the nose, upperrespiratory tract and the lungs or they can enter the blood stream and thus  affect the blood, bone, heart, brain,liver, kidneys or bladder.

This is not normally a direct route of entry from exposure except by wilful or accidental ingestion. Materials can also enter the stomach through indirect means. 
For example, the lung  has a cleaning mechanism which pushes material out of the lung where it can be swallowed. This can result in an exposure to most of the internal organs or even in a local action on the  stomach wall.
Skin Contact:
Some materials are absorbed through the skin and therefore when they enter the bloodstream they can be transported throughout the body and accumulate in, or affect, the most  sensitive areas of the body.  Skin contact can also result in allergic reaction, the removal of the protective skin oil, or dermatitis.  In some cases, the chemical contact may result in a cancerous lesion.

4.2     Health Effects
Many Arts and Reproduction chemicals used in art can also affect the reproductive system.  Some chemicals have specific effects on the male reproductive system e.g., cadmium, manganese, and lead.  Others have specific effects on the female reproductive systems.  e.g., toluene and xylene, which cause menstrual irregularities.  All of these chemicals are common
in art materials.
4.2.1 High Risk Groups
Pregnant and Breast-feeding Women:
Chemicals which are known to cross the placental barrier and possibly cause damage and birth defects, include, but are not limited to: lead, cadmium, mercury, copper, carbon monoxide, dyes, noise, vibration, and many organic solvents. Physical health factors, such as noise, ionizing radiation, and vibration may also affect the fetus.
The amount of material necessary to damage the fetus or embryo is much smaller than the amount which can injure the adult. Different organs have different critical periods of development. Although the time from day 15 to day 60 of a pregnancyis critical for many organs, the heart forms primarily during week 3 and 4 ( 21 to 28 days) while external genitalia are most vulnerable during week 8 and 9 (50 to 63 days).  The brain and skeletal development are always sensitive from the beginning of week 3 through until the end of pregnancy and beyond. Showing caution with regard to handling chemicals during the first 90 days is prudent, although some chemicals, such as alcohol and physical hazards, such as X-rays are dangerous throughout pregnancy.
Many chemicals, especially those containing heavy metals (i.e. lead, mercury, cadmium, copper, etc.) and solvents (i.e. xylene, acetone, toluene, etc.) can be found in a woman's milk several hours after exposure and can affect the infant.  AVOID USE OF SOLVENTS AND AEROSOLS, unless wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).
Children are more susceptible to the effects of hazardous chemicals than adults.
Children should be closely supervised in the studio environment.
Smokers and Heavy Drinkers
These individuals are at a higher risk of damage to their lungs and liver respectively.   Nicotine and/or alcohol mixed with
toxic chemicals in art materials can cause synergistic and multiplicative reactions.
Individuals on Medications
Medications, both prescription and non-prescription, also create a greater risk, because when combined with exposure to certain chemicals their effects may be changed (i.e. increased or decreased). Consult your physician to ensure than any medication (even cold remedies) will not interact with substances contained in the art materials you are using which could cause any illness.
Other High Risk Groups      
Other groups which are considered as "high risk" are persons with disabilities, the elderly, and those with allergies or chronic illnesses.

4.3     Basic Preventative Measures:

  • DO NOT eat, drink, or smoke in the studios. Do not store food, drinks or cigarettes in studios or in close proximity to chemicals. 
  • SUBSTITUTE less hazardous materials or techniques whenever possible.  There are many instances where highly toxic chemicals can be replaced by less toxic materials. 
  • KNOW the materials and their hazards.  If labels do not have adequate information regarding contents, hazards, and precautions, use resource books to research the product your health is worth the effort. 
  • STORE materials safely.  ALWAYS use unbreakable containers and label them clearly. Containers should always be tightly covered when not in use to prevent evaporation of the contents into the environment. NEVER store materials in containers which are normally used for food or drink (i.e. cups, pop bottles, Tupperware, jars, etc.).  The original container, or containers designed for storage of chemicals will avoid accidental ingestion of a toxic substance. 
  • ENSURE proper, effective ventilation. 
  • WEAR appropriate personal protective equipment such as respirators, gloves, face shields, ear muffs, and footwear. The type of equipment used must match the hazard you are trying to protect yourself from. 
  • ASK if you are unsure about the operation of any equipment.Misuse of tools often leads to accidents.  Tools and equipment are to be operated according to the manufacturers recommendations. Never alter or modified tools or equipment without permission of the manufacturer.


Personal protective equipment (PPE) is not the best method of protection from the hazards associated with some of the arts, but in the absence of elaborate engineering control systems (i.e. ventilation), it is the best alternative. 
PPE is designed to protect the wearer from specific hazards, either physical or chemical, and is intended for short term, limited use.  Selecting of the  CORRECT TYPE of PPE is critical to ensure that an adequate level of protection is maintained. The type of PPE must match the type of hazard  which is being controlled.  Failure to ensure this will result in the person thinking that they are being protected when they are not.  Choosing the CORRECT SIZE is also crucial as one size does not fit everyone, and proper fit is essential in most of  these devices. All PPE's should be properly  stored and cleaned when necessary.

5.1 Limitations
Certain types of PPE (i.e. gloves, respirators, etc.) have limitations caused by exposure to chemical substances.  The type of PPE to be selected will vary depending on the type of substance or hazard to which the person is being exposed. One type or brand of PPE does not protect against all hazards and often a combination of PPE is required.  The following are general discussions of the more common types that will be encountered.
5.2 Chemical Resistant Gloves
Synthetic gloves of a suitable material are required to protect your skin from absorbing the chemicalthat it may be exposed to, The most common types of gloves are made of rubber (i.e. Neoprene, Nitrile, or Latex) or plastic (PVC, polyethylene, urethane, etc.)*. Leather gloves do not provide any protection from chemicals.  Not all types of synthetic gloves are resistant to all types of chemicals.  The type selected must be matched against the chemicals that you arehandling. For example: Nitrile gloves have good resistance to 50% acetic acid, but natural rubber (latex) gloves have poor resistance. It is essential that the proper type of glove is chosen which will provide the greatest protection from the chemical being handled.
It is also important that gloves should be CHANGED REGULARLY, with the old (contaminated) ones being discarded and replaced with new ones.  The longer that synthetic gloves are exposed to the chemicals that they are repellent to, the greater the deterioration in the gloves. This rate of degeneration varies with the chemical being used and the synthetic material of the glove.  When the glove is no longer capable of protecting the wearer, the chemical is said to have "broken through". The gloves must be replaced before "breakthrough" happens in order to ensure adequate protection of the wearer.  Breakthrough is not always obvious to the wearer and gloves should be changed at regular intervals to minimize the potential for skin contamination.

**Not all types of synthetic glove materials are listed here.  Contact the Health and Safety
Office or glove manufacturer for guidance in selection.
5.3 Respiratory Protection
This type of protection is necessary where there is a potential hazard of inhaling toxic dusts or mists.  Although there are several types of respiratory protection available, the two most common types are- dust / mist respirators (masks) and chemical cartridge respirators.  Again, the proper type of respirator must be chosen for the work being done and the substance being used or no protection will be provided.  respiratory protection equipment is intended for individual use and not intended to be shared with other people.
5.3.1 Dust / Mist Respirators
Dust / mist respirators are disposable masks composed of thick layers of filter materials which is worn over your nose and mouth and held in place by two elastic straps.  These masks provide some degree of protection from certain dusts or particles and coarse spray mists of chemicals with low toxicity.  Only types which carry a NIOSH approval number are acceptable (i.e. 3M Brand Model 8210). They provide a physical barrier against breathing the material, but do not purify or clean the air that you are breathing.  Use of these types is very limited and will not provide any protection against very toxic chemicals.  Their approval is limited to concentrations of the dust or mist in the air of less than 0.05 Mg/M3*. These units are lightweight, but it is difficult to get them to fit tightly against your face to ensure that none of the potentially hazardous substance gets past them.
5.3.2 Air Purifying (Cartridge) Respirators
Air purifying respirators (APR) consist of a rubber (i.e. silicone) mask, worn over the nose and mouth and held in place by adjustable straps which go over and behind your head.  The mask is fitted with two removable filter cartridges, which contain a form of activated charcoal that filters out and traps the potentially harmful vapours. These units are heavier than the dust/mist masks, but provide far better protection for the wearer, provided that they are fitted properly.  The masks also require periodic maintenance and cleaning. Contact the Health and Safety office for assistance in properly fit testing these devices and for guidance in respirator maintenance. The type of filter cartridge chosen, must match the type of chemical for which protection is desired and not every cartridge will protect against all chemical substances.  This type of respiratory protection has several limitations, namely:

  • they cannot be used in areas of low oxygen concentration (i.e. an oxygen deficient atmosphere), 
  • they cannot be used with very toxic chemicals; and 
  • they should not be used with chemicals which have no smell or odour.

Respirator cartridges perform in a similar fashion to gloves and the chemical vapours will eventually "breakthrough" and need to be replaced. This breakthrough can only be detected by the user where the chemical has a detectable odour.
**NIOSH stands for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health an independent agency in the USA which sets standards and guidelines for safety and heath. High Efficiency Particulate Aerosol(HEPA) Filters
This is a type of filter specifically designed to attach to the above cartridge respirator mask and protect the wearer from toxic dusts or particles.  High Efficiency Particulate Aerosol (HEPA) filter cartridges consists of several layers of high density filter paper folded within a plastic container which is at least 99.97% efficient in collecting 0.3 micron diameter aerosol  particles.  It is useful for protection from hazardous particles or fine dusts (i.e. asbestos or silica). When these filters reach their useful limitations, the cartridges will become partially plugged and breathing will be more difficult.  The cartridges should be replaced with new ones at that time.
5.3.3 Air Supplier Respirators
Another type of available respirator is the air supplied respirators. These are rubber masks which fit over the facial area and include the eyes, nose and mouth.  The air which is breathed by the wearer is supplied under pressure from either an approved pump or from a contained cylinder. These are useful in toxic atmospheres, but are not common in visual arts work.
5.4 Eye Protection
These devices are intended to protect the wearer's eyes from physical or chemical injury.  Where any signs of damage or deterioration are noticed, these devices should be replaced without delay.
5.4.1   Impact Protection for Eyes / Face
Safety glasses (with side shields) and safety goggles (with open vents) are intended to protect the wearer from any physical injury from flying particles or dusts which might enter the eye and cause damage.  These devices do not seal off the eye area and are not suitable for use for protection from chemicals. Plastic face shields are intended to protect the face area and do not adequately protect the eyes when used by themselves.  Safety glasses or goggles must be  worn with face shields to ensure adequate protection.
5.4.2 Chemical Splash Goggles
Chemical splash goggles fit snugly against the wearer's faceto prevent chemicals from entering the eyes and causing damage.  These devices have protected air vents which will prevent liquid chemicals from coming in contact with the eyes in the event of a splash or splatter.  These devices are not intended to be used in atmospheres with high concentrations of toxic chemical vapours.  For those environments, a supplied air respirator which provides full facial protection would be required.
5.5 Body Protection
Where potentially hazardous chemicals are being handled, mixed, or used, the person performing this function should be wearing at least a chemically resistant apron.  These are intended to prevent contact with clothing or skin by the chemical.

5.6 Other Types of PPE
Other personal protective equipment may be required depending on the hazard of the activity. The Health and Safety office may be contacted to provide guidance in what is appropriate.


Art Painting and Drawing - Angela Babin, M.S.

6.1 Introduction
This data sheet will discuss the hazards and precautions of working with paints, pastels, inks, pencils, crayons, and other painting and drawing media. Occupational hazards have been associated with painting since Ramazzini described illnesses in pigment grinders in 1713. Today we hope to make readers more aware of the hazards of working with painting and drawing media and the precautions you can take to work safely.  Working safely can involve changes in how you select your art materials, and how you handle them.

6.2 Pigments
Painters use pigments in oil paints, acrylics, watercolour paints, gouache, encaustic, poster paints, casein paints and tempera. Sometimes commercial paints such as oil enamel, epoxy paints and automobile paints are used.
Paints are pigments mixed with a vehicle or binder. Both inorganic and organic pigments are used as colorants. Dry pigments are especially hazardous because they are easily inhaled and ingested.  They are used in encaustic, paper-marbleizing and in the fabrication of paint products, and will be discussed more thoroughly in the section below on pastels.

6.2.1 Hazards
Poisoning can occur if toxic pigments are inhaled or ingested. The main hazard in standard painting techniques is accidental ingestion of pigments due to eating, drinking or smoking while working, inadvertent hand to mouth contact, or pointing the paint  brush with the lips. If methods such as spraying, heating, or sanding are employed then there is an opportunity for inhalation of toxic pigments.
The classic example of a toxic inorganic pigment in painting is white lead, or flake white (basic lead carbonate). Lead pigments can cause anemia, gastrointestinal problems, peripheral nerve damage (and brain damage in children), kidney damage and reproductive system. Other inorganic pigments may be hazardous, including pigments based on cobalt, cadmium, and manganese. (See Table 1) 
Some of the inorganic pigments, in particular cadmium pigments, chrome yellow and zinc yellow may cause lung cancer. In addition lamp black and carbon black may contain impurities that can cause skin cancer.
Chromate pigments (chrome yellow and zinc yellow) may cause skin ulceration and allergic skin reactions (such as rashes).
The long-term hazards of the modern synthetic organic pigments have not been well studied. (See Table 1)

Table 1 - Toxic Pigments Known or Probable Carcinogens / Highly Toxic Pigments

  • antimony white (antimony trioxide)
  • barium yellow (barium chromate)
  • burnt umber or raw umber (iron oxides, manganese silicates or dioxide)
  • cadmium red or orange (cadmium sulfide, cadmium selenide)
  • cadmium yellow (cadmium sulfide)
  • cadmium barium colours (cadmium colours and barium sulfate)
  • cadmium barium yellow (cadmium sulfide, cadmium selenide,
  • barium sulfate, zinc sulfide)
  • chrome green (Prussian blue, lead chromate)
  • chrome orange (basic lead carbonate)
  • chrome yellow (lead chromate)
  • cobalt violet (cobalt arsenate or cobalt phosphate)
  • cobalt yellow (potassium cobaltnitrate)
  • lead or flake white (basic lead carbonate)
  • lithol red (sodium, barium and calcium salts of soluble azo pigment)
  • manganese violet (manganese ammonium pyrophosphate)
  • molybdate orange (lead chromate, lead molybdate, lead sulfate)
  • naples yellow (lead antimonate)
  • strontium yellow (strontium chromate)
  • vermilion (mercuric sulfide)
  • zinc sulfide
  • zinc yellow (zinc chromate)

Moderately Toxic Pigments / Slightly Toxic Pigments

  • alizarin crimson (lakes of 1,2-dihydroxyanthaquinone or insoluble anthraquinone pigment)
  • carbon black (carbon)
  • cerulean blue (cobalt stannate)
  • cobalt blue (cobalt stannate)
  • cobalt green (calcined cobalt, zinc and aluminum oxides)
  • chromium oxide green (chromic oxide)
  • manganese blue (barium manganate, barium sulfate)
  • Prussian blue (ferric ferrocyanide)
  • toluidine red (insoluble azo pigment)
  • toluidine yellow (insoluble azo pigment)
  • viridian (hydrated chromic oxide)
  • zinc white (zinc oxide)

NOTE: for a more detailed description of the above see the table on 
       Worksafe BC:Exposure Limits and Designations.

6.2.2 Precautions

  • Obtain MSDSs on your paints to find out what pigments you are using. This is especially important because the name that appears  on the tube of colour may or may not truly represent the pigments present. Manufacturers may keep the name of a colour while reformulating the ingredients.
  • Use the least toxic pigments possible. 
  • Do not use lead or carcinogenic pigments.
  • Avoid mixing dry pigments whenever possible.
    • If dry pigments are mixed, do it inside a glove box (a box with a glass or plexiglas top and holes in the sides for arms) or inside a laboratory-type fume hood.
  • Wet mop and wipe all surfaces when using dry pigments.
  • If a glove box or exhaust hood is not practical, wear a NIOSH-approved toxic dust respirator when mixing dry pigments. A toxic dust and mists respirator would also be necessary if you sand the finished painting; if you use a torch, a toxic dust, mists and fumes respirator would be needed because of the possibility of generating metal fumes from the pigments with the torch.
  • Avoid using dishes, containers or utensils from the kitchen to mix and store paints and pigments.

6.3 Water-Based Paints
Water-based paints include water colour, acrylic, gouache, tempera and casein.  Water is used for thinning and cleanup.

6.3.1 Hazards
See section above for pigment hazards.

  • Acrylic paints contain a small amount of ammonia. Some sensitive people may experience eye, nose and throat irritation from the ammonia. Acrylics and some gouaches contain a very small amount of formaldehyde as a preservative. (Repeated use may cause one to become sensitized). Only people already sensitized to formaldehyde would experience allergic reactions from the trace amount of formaldehyde found in acrylics.  The amounts can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.
  • Casein paints use the protein casein as a binder. While soluble forms are available, casein can be dissolved in ammonium hydroxide which is moderately irritating by skin contact and highly irritating by eye contact, ingestion, and inhalation.
  • All water-based paints contain a preservative to prevent mold or bacterial growth. Sometimes artists add preservatives when they make their own paints. Although present in small amounts, certain preservatives may cause allergic reactions in some people.

6.3.2 Precautions
See section above for precautions when mixing dry pigments.

  • If you add your own preservative, avoid using sodium fluoride, phenol or mercury compounds.
  • For tempera, a 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 is usually sufficient; if not try a window exhaust fan.
  • If you mix casein paints using ammonium hydroxide, you will need a window exhaust fan to provide ventilation.
  • Wear gloves, goggles and protective apron when handling ammonia. An eyewash fountain should be available when handling ammonia.

6.4 Non Water-Based Paints
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 (paint thinner), for example, are used in oil painting mediums, for thinning, and for cleaning brushes. Alkyd paints use solvents are their vehicle.  In addition many commercial paints used by artists also contain solvents.

6.4.1 Hazards
See section above for pigment hazards.

  • All solvents can cause defatting of the skin and dermatitis from prolonged or repeated exposure. Turpentine can also cause skin allergies and be absorbed through the skin.
  • Acute inhalation of high concentrations of mineral spirits, turpentine vapours, and other solvents can cause narcosis, which can include symptoms of dizziness, headaches, drowsiness, nausea, fatigue, loss of coordination, coma, as well as respiratory irritation.
  • Chronic inhalation of large amounts of solvents could result in decreased coordination, behavioral changes and brain damage. Chronic inhalation of turpentine can cause kidney damage and respiratory irritation and allergies. Odourless mineral spiritsand turpenoid, in which the aromatic hydrocarbons have been removed, are less hazardous.
  • Ingestion of either turpentine or mineral spirits can be fatal. In the case of mineral spirits, this is usually due to chemical pneumonia caused by aspiration (breathing in) of the mineral spirits into the lungs 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 vapours and wax decomposition fumes are produced, which are strong respiratory irritants.
  • Epoxy paints consist of an epoxy resin component containing the pigment, and a hardener component. The epoxy resin may contain diglycidyl ethers which are irritants, may cause bone marrow damage,and are suspect carcinogens. Epoxy hardeners may cause skin and respiratory allergies and irritation.

6.4.2 Precautions

  • Whenever possible replace turpentine or ordinary mineral spirits with the less toxic odourless mineral spirits. Mineral spirits is also less flammable than turpentine, since its flashpoint is over 100 F (38 C), while turpentine has a flashpoint of 95 F, (35 C).
  • Apply the same health and safety considerations for the use of "citrus" or "pine" solvents.  These have been found to be quite irritating to the skin and eyes.
  • If possible, artists should set up their easel about 3 feet from a window that has a fan exhausting at work level and pulling the solvent vapours away from your face. The rest of the window should be blocked off so that contaminated air doesn't re-enter the room.  The size of fan needed can be calculated based on how much solvent is evaporated. For mineral spirits, the fan size in cubic feet/minute (cfm) would be:

{( # of pints evaporated) x 35,000 cu ft. per pint evaporated x K}
                    (# minutes of exposure)

For example, where K is a safety factor of 10, if a painter evaporates 1/2 cup (1/4 pint) of mineral spirits over a 4 hour (240 minutes) period, the fan size needed would be:
                {(0.25) x 35,000 x 10} / 240 = 360 cfm

  • Techniques such as turpentine washes will require a lot of ventilation because they result in the evaporation of large amounts of solvents in a short period of time.  Acrylic paint can be substituted for underpainting. 
  • Ventilation only needs to be provided while the solvent is evaporating from the canvas, not during the time while the oil paint film is drying (oxidizing).
  • Wear neoprene gloves while cleaning brushes with mineral spirits or turpentine.
  • Used solvent can be reclaimed by allowing the paint to settle and then pouring off the clear solvent. Small amounts of solvent can be disposed of by evaporation in a location that will not expose anyone to the solvent vapours.
  • Paint can be removed from your hands with baby oil, and then soap and water.
  • Wax should be only heated to the minimum temperature needed for proper flow of the paint. Do not heat with open flame or hot plate  with exposed element.  Use a double boiler or electric frying pan. 
  • If there isn't adequate ventilation provided while using epoxy paints, wear gloves and a NIOSH-approved respirator with organic  vapour cartridges. 
  • During pregnancy and nursing, switch to water-based paints to avoid exposure to solvents. See our data sheet "Reproductive Hazards in the Arts" for more information.

6.5 Airbrush, Spray Cans and Spray Guns
Artists use many products in spray form, including fixatives, retouching sprays, paint sprays, varnishes and adhesive sprays. Airbrush, aerosol spray can and spray guns are used.

6.5.1 Hazards

  • Spray mists are particularly hazardous because they are easily inhaled. If the paint being sprayed contains solvents, then you can be inhaling liquid droplets of the solvents. In addition the pigments are also easily inhaled, creating a much more dangeroussituation than applying paint by brush.
  • Aerosol spray paints have an additional hazard besides pigments and solvents. They contain propellants, usually isobutanes and propane, which are extremely flammable and have been the cause of many fires. Other aerosol spray products such as retouching sprays, spray varnishes, etc. also contain solvents, propellants and particulates being sprayed.
  • Airbrushing produces a fine mist which is a serious inhalation hazard because artists work so close to their art work. Airbrushing solvent-containing paints is especially dangerous.
  • Spray guns are less common in art painting but usually involve spraying much larger quantities of paint than either spray cans or airbrush.  Spraying solvent-based paints is a serious fire hazard.

6.5.2 Precautions
See section above for precautions with pigments.

  • Try to brush items rather than spraying if possible. 
  • Use water-based airbrushing paints and inks rather than solvent-based paints. 
  • Use spray cans or an airbrush in a spray booth if possible. If the material sprayed contains solvents, then the spray booth must; be sparkproof. There should be no sources of ignition (electric switches, motors, flames, etc.) within 10 feet of the spray booth  opening. Also, all light fixtures within 20 feet of the spray booth should be enclosed and shatter-proof.
  • Spray booths that recirculate air rather than exhausting air to the outside are not recommended. 
  • If ventilation is not adequate, then respiratory protection is necessary while air brushing or spraying. Use a NIOSH-approved respirator equipped with dust and mist filters for spraying water-based paints, and a respirator with organic vapour cartridges and dusts and mists (or paint spray) prefilters for spraying solvent-based paint. 
  • Never try to spray paint by blowing air from your mouth through a tube. This can lead to accidental ingestion of the paint.

6.6     Dry Drawing Media
This includes dust-creating media such as charcoal and pastels which are often fixed with aerosol spray fixatives, and media such as crayons and oil pastels which do not create dust.

6.6.1 Hazards

  • Pencils are now made with graphite, rather than lead as was true centuries ago, and are not considered a hazard. Coloured pencils have pigments added to the graphite, but the amounts are small so that there is no significant risk of exposure. Over 10 years ago,  a significant hazard in pencils was from lead chromate paint on the exterior of yellow pencils. However this has since been eliminated as a risk.
  • Charcoal is usually made from willow or vine sticks, where wood cellulose has been heated without moisture to create the black colour. Compressed charcoal sticks use various resins in a binder to create the colour. Although charcoal is just considered a nuisance dust, inhalation of large amounts of charcoal dust can create chronic lung problems through a mechanical irritation and clogging effect. A major source of charcoal inhalation is from the habit of blowing excess charcoal dust off the drawing. 
  • Coloured chalks are also considered nuisance dusts. Some chalks are dustier than others. Individuals who have asthma sometimes have problems with dusty chalks, but this is a nonspecific dust reaction, not a toxic reaction. 
  • Pastel sticks and pencils consist of pigments bound into solid form by a resin. Inhalation of pastel dusts is the major hazard.  Some pastels are dustier than others.
  • Pastels can contain toxic pigments such as chrome yellow (lead chromate) which can cause lung cancer, and cadmium pigments (which can cause kidney and lung damage and are suspect human carcinogens). Blowing excess pastel dust off the drawing is one major source of inhalation of pastel pigments. Pastel artists have often complained of blowing their nose different colours for days after using pastels, a clear indication of inhalation. 
  • Crayons and oil pastels do not present an inhalation hazard, and thus are much safer than pastels. Some oil pastels can contain toxic pigments, but this is only a hazard by accidental ingestion. 
  • Both permanent and workable spray fixatives used to fix drawings contain toxic solvents. There is high exposure by inhalation to these solvents because the products are sprayed in the air, often right on a desk or easel. In addition you can be inhaling the plastic particulates that comprise the fixative itself. 
  • Never try to spray fixative by blowing air from your mouth through a tube. This can lead to accidental ingestion of the fixative.

6.6.2 Precautions

  • Use the least dusty types of pastels, chalks, etc. Asthmatics in particular might want to switch to oil pastels or similar non-dusty media. 
  • Spray fixatives should be used with a spray booth that exhausts to the outside. If use of spray fixatives is occasional, you can use them outdoors with a NIOSH-approved respirator equipped with organic vapour cartridges and dust and mists filter for protection against inhalation of solvent vapours and particulates. An exhaust fan is also needed to remove organic vapours and particulates. 
  • Don't blow off excess pastel or charcoal dust with your mouth. Instead tap off the built up dust so it falls to the floor (orpaper on floor). 
  • Wet-mop and wet-wipe all surfaces clean of dusts. 
  • If inhalation of dusts is a problem, a NIOSH-approved disposable toxic dust respirator can be worn.

6.7 Liquid Drawing Media
This includes both water-based and solvent-based pen and ink and felt tip markers. Hazards of dry erase or white board markers can be considered here, although they are more used in teaching or commercial art.

6.7.1 Hazards

  • Drawing inks are usually water-based, but there are some solvent-based drawing inks. These usually contain toxic solvents likexylene. 
  • Permanent felt tip markers used in design or graphic arts contain solvents. Xylene, which is a highly toxic aromatic hydrocarbon, is the most common ingredient; newer brands often contain the less toxic propyl alcohol (although it is an eye, nose and throat irritant). The major hazard from using permanent markers results from using a number of them at the same time at close range. 
  • Water-based markers do not have an inhalation hazard although there is concern about the dyes used in these (and the permanent markers). 
  • Some children's markers are scented, with odours resembling fruits or flowers of the same colour. Although they are not toxic,  there is some concern about the odourants causing possible allergic reaction. However a more serious concern is that they teach young  children to sniff and taste their art materials - the exact opposite of the desired attitude.

6.7.2 Precautions

  • Use water-based markers and drawing inks if possible.
  • Alcohol-based markers are less toxic than aromatic solvent-based markers.
  • Solvent-based drawing inks and permanent markers should be used with good dilution ventilation (e.g. window exhaust fan).
  • Never paint on the body with markers or drawing inks.  Body painting should be done with cosmetic colours.
  • Children should only use approved water-based markers and drawing inks approved for children. Do not use scented markers with children.

6.8 Tools
When using the electric or manual staple gun always assume the tool contains staples; keep the tool pointed away from yourself and others. Disconnect electric staple gun from power supply before doing maintenance or clearing a jammed staple. The tools need special care and can break down quite easily.

6.9 Miscellaneous Supplies
Canvas and solvents can be obtained from the instructor or the lab faculty demonstrator. Wood can be stored temporarily in the workshop (OM1563) and may be picked up during office hours.

6.10 Stretcher Building
Stretcher building workshop will be given to painting students during class time and individual instruction can be arranged with lab faculty. Stretcher building cannot interfere with sculpture classes; sculpture times will be posted. Gessoing is to be done in the painting studios only, not in the workshop.

6.11 Spray painting
Spray painting or aerosol spraying is to be done outdoors or in designated spraybooth only. Wearing an appropriate respirator and suitable clothing  are required and drop sheets should be used.

6.12 Studio Clothing
Because oil paint and solvents do contain toxins it is important that they be kept away from the skin and therefore from entering the bloodstream. The best way to minimize risks is to reserve a set of clothing solely for studio use, or to wear coveralls or a smock over street clothes. Also less paint is inhaled if it does not dry and evaporate on clothing.

6.13 Storage of Materials
All solvents should be stored in lidded containers and placed in the yellow flammable cabinet provided in the Painting Studio. Food items (lunches) should not be stored in lockers that contain paints, solvents and/or clothing contaminated with paints because of a high risk of contaminating the food.

6.14    Storage of Paintings
Store finished paintings in racks provided in order to keep work area clear. It is the responsibility of each student to remove or dispose of any materials or assignments no longer wanted. Failure may result in the department disposing of unwanted material an the costs being passed on to the responsible party.  Personal items left in the department beyond deadline will be discarded.

6.15    Open Studio
Open studio is primarily used by 4th year graduating students . It is also used once a year as an exhibition space for the Graduation Exhibition.


7.1     Hazards

Tools for both woodworking and metal working are often noisy, with noise levels ranging as high as 115 db. Wear proper ear protection, as continual exposure can cause permanent hearing loss. It is common sense to show consideration for others by avoiding extended use of a noisy tool in a crowded work space.

Toxic vapours
Many fumes from grinding metal or plastic are highly toxic by inhalation. Never work in confined spaces without ventilation.

Wear goggles when using machines that create dust, such as the orbital sander. Any process than can give off small metal filings such as drilling, buffing and grinding should be guarded against with eye wear and/or face shield. For grinding rust off steel a respirator mask  should be used.

Dust from flammable or combustible items (i.e. wood) is generally considered to be a fire hazard. Dust of any type, when in sufficient quantities, and when mixed with the right amount of air can produce a dust explosion. Proper cleanliness of work areas and the use of  effective dust extraction systems can minimize this hazard. 

7.2 Safe Zone  
A clear safe zone will be maintained around all power tools. Assignments and materials will be removed if they impede machine use.

7.3 Equipment and Facilities
Equipment and facilities are for the use of registered Visual Arts students and faculty only. They are not to be used for any unrelated outside projects, i.e. car repairs, etc. Facilities and tools are not to be moved or modified to suit individuals
unless authorized by department chair/coordinator or the lab faculty. Unsafe use, or misuse of equipment in the
Department will result in the withdrawal of privileges. Students whoseactions are considered detrimental to themselves or fellow students may be asked by any member of the Department to leave thestudio or stop using the equipment. Any equipment requiring repairs should be brought to the attention of the lab faculty.

7.4 General Safety Rules

  • Be sure work area is clean and no blocking debris or obstacles.
  • Do not wear loose long clothing and tie up long hair on back.
  • Wear appropriate eye and ear protection gears.
  • Do a visual check on the equipment before turning it on and be sure the switch is in OFF position before plugging it into electrical outlet if the machine is unplugged.
  • Turn the machine on and if it produces extraordinary noise turn it off immediately and notify the lab faculty or instructor.
  • Follow instructions and safety rules and if in doubt asks for help from instructor or lab faculty.
  • Always proceed with caution and allow enough time for the job, Do Not Rush.

7.5 Stationary Power Equipments

7.5.1 Bandsaw (Rockwell International Model 14)

  • First adjust upper guide assembly so it is 1.4" to 1/2" above the work. 
  • Allow the saw to reach full speed before starting to feed the work. 
  • Keep hands at least 2" away from blade when the saw is running. 
  • Make turns carefully and do not cut radii so small that the blade is twisted. 
  • Stop the machine before backing out of a long curved cut. 
  • If you hear a clicking noise, turn off the machine at once. This indicates a crack in the blade.

7.5.2 Tale Saw (Rockwell 10")

  • Raise the blade until it projects above the table a distance equal to the thickness of the stock plus 1/4".
  • Unlock the fence and move it along the guide bar to the required width. For an accurate setting check the measurement between thefence and the point of a tooth of the blade that is set toward the fence. 
  • Lock the fence in position, start the machine.
  • Place stock flat on table with straight edge against fence and movestock into the blade. Continue steady feed through the entire cut.  If possible stand to one side of the cutting when saw is in operation. Safety Rules For the Table Saw

  • Be certain the blade is sharp and the right one for your work.
  • Stand to one side of the operating blade and do not reach across it.
  • Maintain a 4" margin of safety. (Do not let your hands come closer than 4" to the operating blade even though the guard is in position).
  • The position of the stock must be controlled either by the fence or the mitre gauge.  Never cut stock free hand.
  • Stop the saw before cranking adjustments to the fence or blade.
  • Operators must control the feed and direction of the cut. Students assisting should not push or pull on the stock, but only support it. BLADE COVER (GUARD) MUST BE USED AT ALL TIMES. 12" Radial Arm Saw (Delta Model 33-890) and 10" Radial Arm Saw (Dewalt Model 770 - 10")

  • Adjust the saw to proper cutting position.
  • Ensure all adjustments are properly secure and the saw is push all the way back.
  • Put stock on the cutting table against the fence and use the left hand to secure the stock, left hand should be 4" to 6" from the saw blade. If 4" margin of safety cannot be maintained do not use the saw.
  • Turn the saw on and use the right hand to pull the saw to cut through the stock and then push the saw to the back position and turn off the saw. 
  • Wait till the saw completely stops before picking up small cut-offs.
  • Never make any adjustment while the saw is running.
  • Turn the saw off immediately if the blade jams. 14" Single Surface Planer (General Model 130-1)

  • Keep working area clean.
  • Keep the machine guards in place at all times when machine is in use.
  • Keep hands well away from cutter-head and all moving parts.
  • Do not clear chips and saw dust away with hands. Use a brush.
  • Do not feed different thickness of wood side by side.
  • Do not attempt to plane pieces shorter than 8" and thinner than 1/16". Maximum depth of cut is 1/8".
  • Never leave the machine with power on.

Ask for proper instructions and demonstrations on usage of other stationary power tools.
-Bench Grinder (Advance, model HG6B)        
-Drill Press (Delta 12" model 11-990C)        
-Disk and Belt Sander #1 (Rockwell/Delta 31-710-12" disc/belt)        
-Disk and Belt Sander #2 (Delta 31-280C 12" Sanding Center)        
-Scroll Saw (2 speed 16" model 40-560C)        
-Compound Mitre Saw (Delta Model 36-220C Type 2)        
-Foot Shears (Tennsmith, Model 36)        
-14" cut-off saw (Milwaukee model 6175)       
-Vertical Sandblast Cabinet        
-Metal band saw (King Industrial KC712BC 93" blade)       
-Air compressors (Devilbiss Model TASV5052 7.5 HP-73.7 Gal. and Devilbiss Pro 4000 5 HP-20 Gal.)

7.5.4 Portable Power Tools
Ask for proper instructions and demonstrations on usage of these portable power tools. Wear appropriate eye and ear protection when using any portable power tools and ensure materials are properly secured before proceeding with the job.         
-Circular Saw (Black and Decker, 7 1/2 Sawcat)        
-Jig Saw (Makita 4323 Variable speed)        
-Reciprocating Saw (Black and Decker 2 speed dual range)        
-Drill  (Mastercraft Maximum 1/2" masonry)        
-Drills (Canadian Tire Mastercraft 18V and 14.4V)       
-Angle grinders  (Black and Decker 5", Mastercraft 4.5", Makita 9523NBH, Bosch 1347A))        
-Belt Sander (Porter Cable Model 352)        
-Palm Sander (Black and Decker Industrial 4")        
-Router (Elu B/D Fixed Based Model 3731)       
-Orbital Sanders (5" Makita B5010, two-Porter Cable 333VS)       
-Profile Sander (Porter Cable Model 444VS) 

7.6     Welding Equipment        
-Miller Millermatic Challenger 172 230V MIG welder        
-Miller Dialarc HF 250 amp TIG welder        
-Hypertherm Powermax 388 plasma cutter        
-Oxy-Acetylene setup for cutting metal

7.6.1 Setting Up the Oxy-Acetylene Outfit

  • Open the acetylene cylinder valve and the oxygen cylinder valve.
  • To light, open the torch acetylene valve and ignite the gas with a spark lighter, adjusting the
  • regulator to the desired working pressure.
  • Open the torch oxygen valve fully, then open the preheat oxygen valve on the cutting attachment to
  • adjust for a neutral flame. The oxygen regulator should be set to the desired working pressure.
  • Readjustment of the preheat oxygen may be required when the cutting lever is depressed to return
  • the pre-heat flames to the neutral state


  • Close the torch oxygen valve.
  • Close the torch acetylene valve. This sequence prevents popping and carbon deposits in the torch.
  • Close the acetylene cylinder valve.
  • Open the torch acetylene valve and bleed the acetylene line. Release the acetylene regulator knob
  • Close the torch acetylene valve.
  • Close the oxygen cylinder valve.
  • Open the torch oxygen valve and bleed the oxygen line. Release the oxygen regulator knob.
  • Close the torch oxygen valve.

NOTE: Always wear the appropriate gloves and protective goggles to shield eyes when welding or cutting.

7.7     Wood Types 
 Some natural wood and wood products can cause health problems to people working with these materials.
The problems may originate from actual contact with the wood and/or from inhalation of wood dust. The
more common woods are identified below:
Cedar:  Skin contact may cause skin allergies.  Inhalation of sawdust may cause severe asthma, bronchitis, sneezing, nasal irritation, and conjunctivitis.  Ingestion may cause gastrointestinal irritation.
Fir:  Splinter wounds are hard to heal and may become infected.
Particle Board and Plywood:  The glue in particle board and plywood contains formaldehyde which is
hazardous by inhalation. Wear dust mask when ripping on the table saw and store these materials away
from heat and moisture.
Toxic Woods
By Robert Woodcock, RN, B.S.N., C.E.N.
Reaction                 Site                  Source                Incidence
I - irritant                S - skin             D - dust                R - rare
S - sensitizer          E - eyes            W - wood             C - common
C - nasopharyn-      R - respiratory    LB - leaves, bark   U - unknown
     geal cancer               
P - pneumonitis      C - cardiac    
DT-direct toxin        N - nausea, malaise
Wood            Reaction    Site     Potency      Source   Incidence
Bald Cypress     S          R             +               D            R
Balsam Fir        S           E,S         +               LB           C
Beech               S,C       E,S,R      ++            LB,D         C
Birch                 S           R           ++            W,D          C
Black Locust     I,N         E,S        +++          LB             C
Blackwood         S          E,S         ++           D,W          C
Boxwood           S           E,S         ++           D,W          C
Cashew             S           E,S          +            D,W          R
Cocobolo          I,S          E,S,R      +++         D,W          C
Dahoma            I            E,S          ++           D,W          C
Ebony               I,S         E,S          ++           D,W          C
Elm                   I            E,S           +            D              R
Goncalo Aves    S           E,S          ++           D,W          R
(Surinam)          S           E,S         +++          D,W          C
Hemlock           C           R               ?            D              U
Iroko                I,S,P       E,S,R      +++          D,W          C
(Swietenia)        S,P         S,R          +            D              U
Mansonia           I,S         E,S         +++          D,W         C
Maple               S,P         R            +++          D             C
Mimosa            N                            ?             LB           U
Myrtle               S            R             ++           LB,D        C
Oak                  S           E,S           ++           LB,D        R
Obeche            I,S          E,S,R       +++          D,W         C
Oleander          DT          N,C           ++++       D,W,LB    C
Olivewood         I,S         E,S,R        +++          D,W        C
Opepe              S           R               +              D            R
Padauk            S           E,S,N         +              D,W        R
Pau Ferro         S           E,S            +              D,W        R
Peroba Rose     I            R,N            ++            D,W        U
Purpleheart                     N              ++            D,W        C
Quebracho        I            R,N            ++            D,LB       C
Redwood          S,P        R,E,S         ++           D             R
Rosewoods       I,S         R,E,S        ++++        D,W        C
Satinwood          I           R,E,S        +++          D,W        C
Sassafras          S           R               +             D            R
Sequoia              I           R                +             D            R
Snakewood         I           R               ++            D,W       R
Spruce               S          R                +             D,W       R
Walnut, Black     S         E,S             ++            D,S        C
Wenge               S         R,E,S          ++            D,W       C
Willow                S          R,N             +             D,W,     LB  U
W. Red Cedar    S           R               +++          D,LB     C
Teak                 S,P        E,S,R         ++            D          C
Yew                   I            E,S            ++            D          C
Zebrawood         S           E,S            ++            D,W      R
================================================= References: Woods Toxic to Man, authour unknown Woods, B., Calnan, C.D. "Toxic Woods." Br. Journal of Dermatology. 9513, 1976, 1-97. ILO Encyclopedia of Occupational Health and Safety, 1983. Lampe, K., McAnn, M. AMA Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants, AMA, 1985.   7.8     Other Materials  Materials such as paint stripper, shellac, varnish, stains, plastic wood, creosote, and enamel paints are all harmful by inhalation, ingestion and skin contact. Particular care should be taken not to use any of there substances in a crowded work space without adequate ventilation. Many paints and compounds (such as arsenic) are suspected carcinogens and can cause reproductive problems.


8.1 Developing Baths
The most commonly used developer are hydroquinone, monomethyl para-aminophenol sulfate, and
phenidone. Other common components of developing baths include an accelerator. Often sodium
carbonate or borax, sodium sulfite as a preservative and potassium bromide as a restrainer or
anti-fogging agent.

8.2 Health Hazards

8.2.1 General Health Hazards

Developers are commonly available in powder form and must be dissolved to make the developing
bath. They are skin and eye irritants, and some are strong sensitizers. Monomethyl paraaminophenol
sulphate creates many skin problems and allergies to it are frequent. Hydroquinone can cause
depigmentation and eye injury after 5 or more years of continual exposure. Catechol and pyrogallol
can be absorbed through the skin to cause severe poisoning. Phenidone is only slightly toxic by
skin contact. Most developers are highly toxic by ingestion (some fatalities have occurred by
accidentally drinkingdeveloper solution). Inhalation of powders is also hazardous.

8.2.2 Specific Health Hazards

Para-phenylene diamine and some of its derivatives are highly toxic by skin contact, inhalation,
and ingestion. They cause very severe skin allergies and can be absorbed through the skin.
Sodium hydroxide, sodium carbonate, and other alkalis used as accelerators are moderately to
highly corrosive by skin contact or ingestion. This is a particular problem with the pure alkali or with
concentrated stock solutions.
Potassium bromide is moderately toxic by inhalation or ingestion and slightly toxic by skin contact.
Symptoms of systemic poisoning include somnolence, depression. Lack of coordination, mental
confusion, hallucinations and skin rashes.
Sodium sulfite is moderately toxic by ingestion or inhalation causing gastric upset, colic, diarrhea,
circulatory problems, and central nervous system depression. It is not appreciably toxic by skin
contact. If heated or allowed to stand for a long period in water or acid, it decomposes to produce
sulphur dioxide which is highly irritating by inhalation.

8.2.3 Precautions
Wear rubber gloves and goggles when handling developers in powderform or liquid solution. Wash gloves off before using again. Wear an approved dust respirator when pouring developer dusts.
Do not put your bare hands in developer baths. Use tongs instead. If developer solution splashes on your skin or eyes, immediately flush with water.
Label all solutions carefully to avoid accidental ingestion.
Do not use para-phenylene diamine or its derivatives if at all possible.

8.3 Stop Baths
Stop baths are usually weak solutions of acetic acid. Acetic acid is commonly available as pure
glacial acetic acid or 28% acetic acid. Some stop baths contain potassium chrome alum as a hardener.

8.3.1 Health Hazards
Acetic acid
Acetic acid, in concentrated solutions, is highly toxic by inhalation, skin contact and ingestion. It
can cause dermatitis and ulcers, and can strongly irritate the mucous membranes. The final stop
bath is only slightly hazardous by skin contact. Continual inhalation may cause chronic bronchitis.
However contamination of the stop bath by developer components can increase the hazard.
Potassium chrome alum or chrome alum Potassium chrome alum or chrome alum (potassium
chromium sulfate) is moderately toxic by skin contact causing dermatitis, allergies, and skin ulcers
which might take a long time to heal. It is highly toxic by inhalation.

8.3.2 Precautions
Wear gloves and goggles when handling concentrated solutions of acetic acid of when handling
chrome alum. Always add acids to water, never the reverse.
All darkrooms require good ventilation to control the level of acetic acid vapours and other vapours
and gases produced in photography. Kodak recommends at least 10 air changes per hour for work
rooms and local exhaust ventilation for processing and mixing tanks which produce toxic vapours or
Cover the acid bath (and other baths) when not in use to prevent evaporation or release of toxic
vapours and gases.
Store concentrated acids and other corrosive chemicals on low shelves so as to reduce the
chance of eye or face injury in case of breakage.

8.4 Fixing Baths
Fixing baths contain ammonium or sodium thiosulphate as the fixing agent, acetic acid to neutralize
developing action, and sodium sulfite as a preservative. Some fixing baths are hardened with alum
(potassium aluminum sulfate) and boric acid (as a buffer).

8.4.1 Health Hazards
In powder form sodium thiosulphate is not significantly toxic by skin contact. By ingestion it has
a purging effect on the bowel. Upon heating or long standing in solution, it can decompose to form
highly toxic sulphur dioxide, which can cause chronic lung problems.
Alum (potassium aluminum sulfate) is only lightly toxic. It may cause skin allergies or irritation in
a few people.
Boric acid is moderately toxic by ingestion or inhalation and slightly toxic by skin contact (unless
the skin in abraded or burned, in which case it can be highly toxic).
See previous sections for hazards of sodium sulfite and acetic acid.

8.4.2 Precautions
Ventilate the fixing bath as described in the previous section.
Follow the named precautions for mixing, handling, and using chemicals as described in previous

8.5 Intensifiers and Reducers

A common after treatment of negatives (and occasionally prints) is either intensification or reduction.
Intensification involves bleaching of the negative and subsequent redeveloping of the image. In this
process,other heavy metals are usually added to the silver. Common intensifiers include, but are not
limited to:
-mercuric chloride followed by ammonia or sodium sulfite;
-Monckhoven's intensifier consisting of a mercuric iodide/sodium
sulfite, potassium bromide, and uranium nitrate.
Reduction of negatives is usually done with Farmer's reducer, consisting of potassium ferricyanide
and hypo. Reduction can also be done with iodine/potassium cyanide, ammonium persulfate, and
potassium permanganate/sulphuric acid.

8.5.1 Health Hazards
Potassium or sodium cyanide are highly toxic by inhalation and ingestion. Stomach acids can
convert salt into the highly poisonous gas hydrogen cyanide. This can also happen if cyanide salts
are treated with acid.
Potassium ferricyanide, although only slightly toxic by itself, will release hydrogen cyanide gas
if heated if hot acid is added, or if exposed to strong ultra-violet light (e.g. carbonarcs).
Potassium chlorochromate can release highly toxic chlorine gas if heated or if acid is added.

8.5.2 Precautions
Dichromate intensifiers are probably the least toxic you can use. However, gloves and goggles
should still be worn when preparing and using them.
Do not expose potassium chlorochromate to acid or heat.
If possible do not use cyanides. If it is necessary to use them, do so only in a fume hood or
other local exhaust hood. Take very careful precautions to ensure that cyanide solutions do not
become contaminated with acids. Have an antidote kit available.
The safest reducer to use is farmer's reducer. Do not expose farmer's reducer to hot acid,
ultraviolet light, or heat, as highly toxic hydrogen cyanide gas will be produced.

8.6 Toner
Toning a print usually involves replacement of silver by another metal, for example gold, selenium,
uranium, platinum, or iron. In some cases the toning involves the replacement of silver metal by the
brown silver sulfide, for example, in the various types of sulfide toners. A variety of other chemicals
are also used in the toning solutions.

8.6.1 Health Hazards:
Many of the metals used in toning are highly toxic, particularly by ingestion.
Sodium and potassium sulfide release the highly toxic gas hydrogen sulfide when treated with acid. Similarly, treatment of selenium salts with acid may release highly toxic hydrogen selenide gas.
Thiourea is a suspected carcinogen since it causes cancer in animals.

8.6.2 Precautions
Carry out normal precautions for handling toxic chemicals as described in previous sections.
In particular wear gloves, goggles, and dust respirator when mixing and handling acids and alkalis.
Take precautions to make sure that sulfide or selenium toners are not contaminated with acids.
For example, with two bath sulfide toners, make sure you rinse the print well after bleaching in
acid solution before dipping it in the sulfide developer.

8.7 Other Photographic Chemicals
Many other chemicals are also used in black and white processing, including formaldehyde as a
prehardener, a variety of strong oxidizing agents as hypo eliminators (e.g. hydrogen peroxide and
ammonia, potassium permanganat, bleaches and potassium persulfate), sodium sulfide to test
for residual silver, silver nitrate to test for residual hypo, solvents such as methyl chloroform and
freon for film and printing cleaning, and concentrated acids to clean trays. Most of these have
some form of potential health hazard associated with their use. Consult the MSDS to determine
the hazard and the appropriate method of protecting yourself.

8.7.1 Health Hazards
Concentrated sulphuric acid mixed with potassium permanganate or potassium dichromate
produces highly corrosive permanganic and chromic acids.
Hypochlorite bleaches can release highly toxic chlorine gas when acid is added or it is heated.
Potassium persulfate and other strong oxidizing agents can be explosive when in contact with
easily oxidizable materials such as many solvents and organic materials.
Formaldehyde is a throat, eye and respiratory system irritant, which can also cause dermatitis
and asthma. It is a suspected carcinogen.

8.7.2 Precautions
Cleaning acids should be handled with great care. Wear gloves and goggles and make sure
the acid is always added to the water when diluting. An acid-proof apron should be worn to protect
your body against splashes. The acid should be disposed of by pouring down the sink very slowly
and flushing with water continually for at least 15 minutes afterward.
Do not add acid to hypochlorite bleaches and do not heat.
Keep potassium persulfate and other strong oxidizing agents separate from flammable and easily
oxidizable substances.
The hazards of formaldehyde can be minimized through dilution ventilation, such as an exhaust fan.

Most photographic chemicals, diluted in solutions normally used in processing, contain relatively low concentrations of toxic substances and therefore have low toxicity ratings for ingestion. Swallowing these solutions may produce mild transient gastro-intestinal symptoms. However, some toxicologists believe that major potential for hazards lies in continuous inhalation and skin absorption of these chemicals over long periods of time. Photographers expose themselves to vapours rising from large surfaces of trays, especially when darkroom temperatures exceed 21C. and ventilation is poor. They expose the skin of their hands to all of these chemicals as they handle prints and move them through the various stages of processing. Low-level exposure to photographic chemicals is believed to have a cumulative effect on the various organs, such as the liver and kidneys, that must
metabolize, store or excrete them, and on the central nervous system and respiratory tract. Such exposure has also let to the development of asthma and the worsening of other pre-existing lung conditions for some photographers, students and other persons living in close proximity to unventilated darkrooms.

8.7.3 What to do

Everyone who works with photographic chemicals should have a basic understanding of the nature of chemicals and their interaction with each other. Photographers should learn the art and the chemistry of photography at the same time.
Always provide exhaust ventilation and a fresh source for the darkroom.
Use good housekeeping practices. Wipe up all spills and splashes promptly; dispose of rags and papers contaminated with chemicals.
Use aerosol spray products only in a spray booth or with efficient exhaust ventilation.
Avoid skin contact with chemicals by using protective gloves or tongs.
Change work clothes and launder them frequently. Wash hands well before eating, smoking, or using the toilet.
Do not smoke, eat, or drink in the darkroom.


9.1 General Hazards
Although the techniques of screen, lithographic, intaglio, and relief printmaking vary considerably, they all involve applying inks to the screens or stones or plates, setting up and operating the vacuum table or printing press, and cleaning up afterwards. The main hazards occur during the inking and cleaning steps. In handling prepared inks, there are no inhalation hazards from the pigment unless ink is allowed to dry on surfaces where it
can eventually form a powder. The major hazards with inks are due to skin contact and accidental ingestion. This can be a problem particularly with hand-siping techniques. Using bare hands increases the Possibility of getting the ink in cuts and sores and of transferring ink from hands to mouth and ingesting it.

9.2 Clean-up
Many solvents and cleaners are highly toxic by inhalation and moderately toxic by repeated skin contact, causing dermatitis. Do not wash your hands with solvents; appropriate gloves should be worn to avoid skin contact when cleaning up. Dispose of solvent-soaked rags in self-closing waste disposal cans that are emptied each day.

9.3 Ventilation

Slot exhausts and elephant-trunk hoods comprise the main ventilation system in the printmaking studio. Essentially they are local exhaust ventilation systems to provide safe handling of toxic, noxious, or otherwise harmful Materials. The slots or hoods direct contaminants away from the work area by drawing out the contaminated air and
expelling it. But in order to be effective, the fume hood must be used properly. Consult instructor or lab demonstrator for the proper use of these devices.

9.4 Lithography
Lithography can be done on either stone or metal plates. In both cases the purpose of the various chemicals used to prepare the plates or stone is to make the image areas ink receptive and to make the non-image areas water receptive and therefore ink repellent.

9.4.1 Drawing Materials
Before drawing on stone, the stone surface has to be ground smooth and the previous image erased. This is done with carborundum abrasives while the stone is wet and does not involve any hazards.
However, when handling dry carborundum grits, particularly fine mesh (#200 and up) size, respirator must be worn. Drawing materials for both stone and metal plates contain materials with high grease and fatty acid content. Hazards

Solvents used in tusches are rated moderately toxic by inhalation. With the amounts of solvents used in drawing materials, normal ventilation is sufficient protection.
Stone etches consist of solutions of gum arabic and nitric acid.
Preparation of gum etches from concentrated acids can cause severe burns and eye damage from splashes. The final gum etching is only weakly acidic and is not significantly hazardous. Wear gloves and goggles when handling all concentrated acids to avoid skin contact.
Avoid inhaling the acid vapours. Use adequate local exhaust ventilation (i.e. fume hood, slotted vents or elephant trunk vents).
When diluting acid, always add acid slowly to the water and never the reverse.
Lithotine, which is used to wash out the image, is a moderately toxic solvent.
Liquid asphaltum used in roll-up and as a blockout contains pitch in
an oil turpentine base and may cause skin irritation.

9.4.2 Stone Processing
The basic steps in processing the image on stone consist of etching, dusting with rosin and talc, washing out the image with lithotine, rolling up with liquid asphaltum and then ink, and making corrections. Hazards
Stone etches consist of solutions of gum arabic and nitric acid, or phosphoric acid. Preparation of gum etches from concentrated acids can cause severe skin burns and eye damage from splashes. The final gum etch is only weakly acidic and is not significantly hazardous.
Rosin dust may cause respiratory allergies including asthma. Talc or French chalk often contain certain amounts of asbestos which may cause lung cancer and other forms of respiratory diseases.
Washout of the image is done with lithotine, a moderately toxic solvent.
Liquid asphaltum used in roll-up and as a blockout contains pitch in an oil or turpentine base. It may cause skin irritation and possibly skin cancer.
Counteretches used for correcting the image consist of diluted acetic acid. Concentrated acetic acid is a highly toxic skin, eye, and respiratory irritant.
Litho stones are very heavy. Always move stones with care by means of a work winch and use care to avoid dropping.
Preparation of ferric oxide drawing transfer sheet involves the use of lacquer thinner which contains high amount of toluene and other toxins. Skin contact and inhalation should be avoided. Toluene is extremely flammable - do not use near any spark or open flame. Precautions
Wear gloves and goggles when handling all concentrated acids, to avoid skin and eye contact. Local exhaust ventilation, an air supplied respirator and/or a chemical cartridge respirator with suitable acid gas cartridge should used. When diluting acid, always add the acid slowly to the water, never the reverse.
Replace talc or French chalks of unknown asbestos content with an asbestos-free talc, such as baby powder.
Use normal precautions when handling solvents such as lithotine, mineral spirit, and lacquer thinner to avoid skin contact and inhalation.
Wash hands carefully to remove ink and asphaltum.
The use barrier creams as a form of skin protection from solvent-based inks and solvents is NOT RECOMMENDED.

9.5 Photo-lithography
Photographic images can be transferred to metal plates that are coated with a light-sensitive emulsion. We use a commercially produced positive working photo-litho plate (Horsell Libra Gold) and an ultra-violet vaccuum light table for exposure. The developer used is Horsell Graphic C1338 developer and the finisher is Hoechst Ozasol Finisher / Preserver / Cleaner.

9.5.1 Hazards
The Horsell C1338 developer contains sodium metasilicate pentahydrate which may cause severe eyes and skin irritation and possible burns. Ingestion will cause irritation of the mouth and respiratory tract.
Plate finisher (FPC) contains high boiling petroleum spirit, monosodium phosphate and polyethylene glycol. It is combustible and could cause skin and eyes irritation.
Ultra-violet lamps are hazardous, they emit large amounts of ultraviolet (UV)radiation, which is damaging to the eyes and skin.

9.5.2 Precautions
When using developer and finisher always wear appropriate gloves, and goggles.
Avoid eye contact with ultra-violet light.

9.5.6 Intaglio
Intaglio printmaking processes include etching, engraving, drypoint, and collagraphs.

9.6.1 Ventilation
Due to the use of acids, slot ventilation are necessary in the intaglio printmaking process.

Try to limit the number of individuals standing close to or directly in front of the acid bath.
Avoid blocking the ventilation slot.
Always keep the cover on when acid bath is not in use to prevent evaporation.

9.6.2 Engraving and Drypoint
The main hazard of drypoint and engraving is the chance of cutting
yourself through improper use of the tools. Hold the tools properly
and always cut in a direction away from you with both hands behind the blade. Always keep the tools sharp.

9.7 Etching Grounds
Some of the ingredients which make up both hard ground and soft ground are flammable and can cause skin and eye irritation; avoid prolonged contact.
Both hard and soft grounds are available from our department.

Stop-out varnish: contains shellac and denatured alcohol, possible drowsiness above 1000 ppm, irritation of eyes and nose; flammable. Use local exhaust ventilation.
Alcohol: slightly toxic.
Rosin: slightly toxic by inhalation.
Asphaltum: toxic by skin contact, possibly causing skin cancer and skin irritation. Wash carefully after use.

9.8 Aquatint

9.8.1 Hazards

Rosin can cause respiratory problems during this process because of the fine dust produced when it is shaken onto the plate. Wear a suitable dust/mist respirator.
Spray enamel and lacquer paint are also used in aquatinting. Use proper ventilation and wear a suitable respirator.
A hotplate is used for melting the rosin. Avoid touching the hotplate and always keep combustible materials away from the hotplate. Turn off the hotplate when finished.

9.9 Acid

Zinc plates are etched with nitric acid of varying strengths.

9.9.1 Hazards

Concentrated acids are highly corrosive to the skin and eyes. Nitric acid etching can release highly toxic nitrogen oxides, especially if a large plate is being etched or the acid solution is too strong.

Nitric acid etching on zinc releases small bubbles of hydrogen gas.
If the surface being bitten is large and/or a strong nitric acid solution is being used, the solution might get hot enough to cause the ground or hydrogen gas to catch fire.
Nitric acid etching of zinc plates can release highly toxic nitrogen oxides. This is especially true when large plate areas are being etched or the acid solution is too strong. This can be very hazardous since nitrogen oxide gases are highly irritating to the lungs.
Single heavy exposures (especially if you see a brownish-orange gas) can cause pulmonary edema and possibly death.
Long-term effects of exposure to nitrogen oxides include emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Note that nitrogen oxides do not have good odour-warning properties, and effects might not show up for several hours.

NOTE: Chemical cartridge respirators do not provide adequate protection
from nitric acid vapours. Only proper functioning local
exhaust ventilation system provide adequate protection.

9.9.2 Precautions

Wear gloves, goggles and respirator when handling and mixingconcentrated acids and when handling plates in acid baths.
The acid baths and preparation of acid solutions should be done in front of slot ventilation. Ordinary respirators are not sufficient protection against nitric acid fumes. In case of excessive emission of nitric acid fumes during etching, add sodium bicarbonate to neutralize the acid.
If the acid bath gets too hot, carefully remove the plate from the bath and cool it with cold water. Wear gloves.
Acid mixture - always add acid to the water. Usual mixtures are:
Normal bite - 9 parts water to 1 part acid; Strong bite - 6 parts water to 1 part acid. DO NOT spike acid baths (adding acid to tray), as this makes for an inconsistent bath.

9.10 Photo-etching
We use a commercial plate (Mitsui Photo Sensitive Zinc Plate) and caustic soda (sodium hydroxide, BD. Chemicals Analar 0018762 pellets) as a developer. Exposure of plates is commonly done with ultraviolet sources such as metal halide lamps.

9.10.1 Hazards
Sodium hydroxide is highly corrosive to skin, eyes, and mucous membranes. Ingestion causes intense pain and damage to mouth and esophagus and may be fatal. Inhalation of dust or solution can cause pulmonary edema. Diluted solutions are also very irritating.

9.10.2 Precautions
Wear gloves, goggles, and respirator when handling sodium hydroxide for plate development.

9.11 Relief Printmaking

9.11.1 Woodcuts and linocuts

Wood and linocuts are made by gouging out areas of a smooth surface with cutting tools. Standard inks (both oil - and water-based) can be used to print the plates. Soft woods such as pine make ideal woodcut blocks. Battleship linoleum is available from our department.
Heating the linoleum with electric hot plate makes cutting easier.
Woodcut (linocut) tools may be signed out from the department. Precautions

Always cut in a direction away from you, with your free hand on the side or behind the hand with the tool.
Solvents which are used during cleanup are skin irritants. Wear gloves.

9.12 Common solvents used for oil-based inks cleaning:

9.12.1 Petroleum distillate (mineral spirits)

Mineral spirit is moderately toxic by inhalation, and have low toxicity by ingestion and skin contact.
Mineral spirit is combustible.
This substance is most harmful during the cleaning processes where it is used in large volumes. If equipment is
cleaned immediately after printing, less solvent is used. Solvents such as turpentine, benzene, naphtha, and kerosene are also used as modifiers. These solvents are classified as moderately toxic by inhalation and skin
contact, and highly toxic by ingestion. Obey normal fire prevention rules, including storing solvents in approved safety cans.
The red self-closing flammable disposal cans should be used to contain waste rags and newspaper contaminated with solvents. Do not store or use near any source of ignition.

9.12.2 Lacquer thinner

Lacquer thinner is a mixture of solvents when contains high amounts of toluene and other toxins. Skin contact and inhalation should be avoided. Ensure ventilation and wear gloves. Goggles are required to protect against splashes. Since it is highly flammable, contaminated rags and newspapers should be disposed of in red self-closing flammable metal disposable cans. Do not use near any ignition sources.

9.13 Screen printing

Screen printing is essentially a stencil technique. Frames, fabric, squeegees and other supplies can be obtained from the Department. We use direct emulsion and water-based inks.

9.13.1 Silkscreen Supplies and their Hazards In screenprinting the main hazards lie in the emulsion, the emulsion remover, and the general screen cleaner (some contain certain amount of solvent). Basic, good housekeeping methods as well as some personal protection are necessary when mixing the inks, printing and cleaning up. Through all these procedures, gloves should be used. Do not eat, drink, or smoke in the studio.

9.13.2 Silkscreen Inks

Speedball Hunt Non-toxic Water-based acrylic screen printing inks and additives are used. The mixing inks is relatively hazard-free.
Mild detergent and warm water are used for the cleanup. Avoid ingestion, eye contact and use basic good housekeeping methods for cleanup.

9.13.3 Printing
Printing is not a hazardous process because of using water-based inks.

9.13.4 Photo Stencils

We use direct emulsion for the photo stencils and use water as developer. Exposure of the emulsions is done with an intense light source such as ultra-violet lamps. The screens are reclaimed with emulsion remover and water. Dirasol 916 direct emulsion is used. Hazards

The Dirasol 916 emulsion contains acrylate resin which may cause irritation of eyes or skin with sensitive individuals.
The sensitizer used in the emulsion contains 45% of diazo compound and 45 % of phosphoric acid by weight. It is corrosive and irritating to skin and mucous membrance.
Willoclean (pre-wash) is sometimes used for opening the screen and as a cleaning agent for inks. It is a cleaner and degreaser and it contains sodium tripolyphosphate which is an irritant to eyes, skin and digestive tract.
Universal mesh-prep is used as a degreaser. It is non-hazardous diluted solution of a weak organic acid and thickening agent.
S-038 All-Purpose Screen Cleaner contains ethyl alpha Hydro-xyproprionate and can cause eyes and skin irritation.
Sodium metaperiodate (Willowclean emulsion remover) is a strong oxidizer. Inhaling the powder may cause irritation of mucous membranes.
Mr. Clean detergent used for general ink and screen cleanup can cause eye and skin irritation.
Ultra-violet lights are harmful to the eyes. Precautions

Wear gloves and goggles when mixing and using Dirasol 916 and when using Mr. Clean for cleaning.
Wear gloves, goggles and respirator when cleaning the emulsion off the screen with emulsion remover and power washer.
Wear gloves, goggles and respirator when using Willowclean Pre-wash and S-038 All-purpose cleaner.



This portion of information on ceramics is obtained though the internet from the Data Sheet published in 1992 by the Center for Safety in the Arts in New York. Ceramic art and pottery has a wide variety of hazards. The specific hazards and precautions can be divided into four areas:

  • working with clay
  • glazing and colouring
  • firing in a kiln
  • potential leaching of finished ware

10.1 Working With Clay
Clays are minerals composed of hydrated aluminum silicates, often containing large amounts of crystalline silica. Other impurities may include organic matter or sulphur compounds. Sometimes, grog (ground firebrick), sand, talc, vermiculite, perlite, and small amounts of minerals such as barium carbonate and metal oxides, are added to modify clay properties. Clays can be worked by hand or on the potter's wheel, or cast in a clay slurry into moulds.

Clay is made by mixing dry clay with water in clay mixer. Clay slip is made by adding talc which themselves can be contaminated with fibrous asbestos or asbestos-like materials. Geographical sources of talc are relevant, for example, New York State talc are notoriously asbestos- contaminated, while Vermont talc are not. Pfizer has some fiber-free talc.

10.1.1 Hazards

There have been known cases of silicosis, or "potter's rot", from chronic inhalation of large amounts of free silica during clay mixing. Symptoms of silicosis include: shortness of breath, dry cough, emphysema, and high susceptibility to lung infections such as tuberculosis. The disease may take years to develop. Silica dust exposure is not hazardous by skin contact or ingestion. Chronic inhalation of kaolin is moderately hazardous, an can result in kaolinosis, a disease in which the lungs become mechanically clogged. Asbestos is extremely toxic by inhalation and possibly by ingestion.
Asbestos inhalation may cause asbestosis, lung cancer, mesothelioma, stomach cancer, and intestinal cancer.
Sand, perlite, grog, and vermiculite contain free silica and are, therefore, highly toxic by inhalation. Vermiculite is also frequently contaminated with asbestos.

There is a danger of accidents if clay or water can be added while the mixer is in operation.  Bags of clay and glaze materials can be very heavy, and lifting can cause back problems.

Hypersensitivity pneumonia, asthma, or other respiratory problems may occur with exposure to months, or with inhalation of dry aged clay. Moulds can cause or exacerbate skin problems and change the workability of clay.

Throwing on a potter's wheel for long periods of time can result in carpel tunnel syndrome because of the awkward position of the wrists. Pain, numbness and/or pins and needles in the thumb and first three fingers, are common symptoms. Back problems can occur from bending over the potters wheel for long periods of time. Hand contact with wet clay can result in abrasion and dryness of fingertips and hands.

Moving parts of kickwheels can cause cuts and abrasions. This can be especially a problem with young children.
Clay scraps on the floor, bench and other surfaces can dry and pulverize, producing an inhalation hazard due to the presence of free silica. Similarly, reconditioning clay by pulverization and sanding finished green ware, can create very high concentrations of hazardous silica dust in the air.

10.1.2 Precautions
Use premixed clay to avoid exposure to large quantities of clay dust.
Clay storage and mixing should take place in a separate room. Bags of clay (and other pottery materials) should be stacked on palettes or grids off the floor for easier clean-up.
All clay mixers should be equipped with local exhaust ventilation to remove fine silica dust particles from the air. If the local exhaust system is not totally effective, wear a NIOSH-approved toxic dust respirator.
Clay mixers should be equipped with proper machine guards so that they cannot be opened to add clay or water while the mixer blades are turning.
Wear separate work clothes while in the studio. Choose clothes of material and design that don't trap dust. Wash these clothes weekly, and separately from other laundry.
Do not use asbestos or asbestos-contaminated talc.
Avoid contact of clay with broken skin. Use a skin moisturizer.
To prevent back problems, always left with knees bent. Also, use a standup wheel (Cranbrook style treadle wheel), or elevate electric wheels to a height that doesn't require bending over. Exercise and massage may relieve minor muscular pain.
Keep wrists in unflexed position as much as possible to prevent carpel tunnel syndrome. Take frequent work breaks.
Be careful of the moving parts on kickwheels, and do not allow young children to use kick style potters wheels.
Recondition clay by cutting still-wet clay into small pieces, letting them air-dry, and soak in water.

Finish green ware while still wet or damp with a fine sponge INSTEAD OF SANDING WHEN DRY. Always wear a NOISH approved toxic dust respirator if sanding dry ware. DO NOT SAND GREENWARE WHICH CONTAINS FIBROUS TALC.
Wet mop floors and work surfaces daily to minimize dust levels and prevent dry scraps from becoming pulverized. Hosing down is good if the studio is equipped with a suitable drainage system and clay trap. Floors should be sealed or made of easy-cleaning material. Vaccuum cleaners are useful only if equipped with high efficiency (HEPA) filters to prevent fine silica dust from passing through the vacuum cleaners and becoming airborne within the work area.

10.2 Glazes and Colouring
Glazes used to colour or finish clay pieces are a mixture of alumina, silica, fluxes and colorants. Common fluxes include lead, barium, lithium, calcium and sodium, and are used to lower the melting point of silica. The actual colorants, which are an assortment of metal oxides usually account for less than 10% of the glaze by weight.

Originally,soluble raw lead compounds including red lead, white lead, galena, and litharge were used as fluxes in low-fire glazes. In fact, over 400 cases of lead poisoning were reported in British potters in 1897. Lead frits and good housekeeping greatly lowered the number of potters that had been poisoned by these highly toxic lead compounds. Frits are made of melted minerals and metal compounds that are sintered and ground into powder form. While lead frits are sometimes assumed to be insoluble and nontoxic, leaching tests with acids have shown that many frits are as soluble as raw lead compounds and, in fact, there have been cases of lead poisoning from both inhalation or ingestion of these lead frits.


High fire porcelain and stoneware techniques eliminate the need for lead as a flux. Also, alkali earth or alkaline earth fluxes can be used for low-fire conditions instead of lead. Silica may also be removed from leadless type glazes. The substitution can be based on boric oxide as the glass-former, instead of silica. Alkali earth fluxes include sodium, potassium, and lithium oxides; alkaline earth fluxes include calcium, magnesium, barium,and strontium oxides. Minerals containing these fluxes include certain feldspars, nepheline syenite, petalite, bone and plant ashes, whiting, and dolomite.

An assortment of metal oxides or other metal compounds produce particular colours when fired. These are added in such small amounts to the glaze, that they are not usually a great hazard. Lustre or metallic glazes are fired in a reduction atmosphere. These glazes can contain mercury, arsenic, highly toxic solvents such as aromatic and chlorinated hydrocarbons, and oils such as lavender oil. The common metals are often resinates of gold, platinum, silver, and copper.

Some underglazes and overglazes use mineral spirits as the vehicle instead of water. Glaze components are weighted, sorted and mixed with water. These materials are often in fine powdered form, and result in high dust exposures.

Glazes can be dipped, brushed, poured, or sprayed on the ceramic piece.

10.2.1 Hazards
Lead compounds are highly toxic by inhalation or ingestion. Symptoms of lead poisoning include:
damage to the peripheral nervous system, brain, kidney, or gastrointestinal system, as well as anemia,
chromosomal damage, birth defects and miscarriages. All lead compounds, including lead frits, are regulated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Lead-glazed foodware can leach lead if not fired properly, or if the glaze composition is not correctly adjusted. For example, the addition of copper to lead frits renders a higher solubility of lead in the final fired ware. Acidic drinks and foods such as tomato juice, citric juices, sodas, tea, or coffee, can increase this hazard.
A glaze label marked "lead-safe" means that the finished ware, if fired properly, will not release lead into food or drink. The actual glaze is still hazardous to handle and fire and may contain lead. Adequate control over firing conditions is very difficult in the craft studio.
Other fluxes such as barium and lithium are also highly toxic by inhalation, but less so than lead.
Certain colorant compounds of particular metals are known or probable human carcinogens, including: arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, nickel, and uranium.
Antimony, barium, cobalt, lead, lithium, manganese, and vanadium colorant compounds are highly toxic by inhalation.
Antimony, arsenic, chromium, vanadium, and nickel compounds are moderately toxic by skin contact.
Free silica occurs in many of the clays, plant ash, flint, quartz feldspars, talc, etc. used in glazes. See the discussion above for the hazards of silica and the disease silicosis. Weighing and mixing glazes can result in the inhalation of these toxic materials.
Soda ash, potassium carbonate, alkaline feldspars, and fluorspar used in glazes are skin irritants.
Spray application of glazes is very hazardous because of the potential inhalation of glaze mists.
Dipping, pouring, and brushing certain glazes may cause skin irritation and accidental ingestion due to careless personal hygiene habits.
Glazes containing solvents are both flammable and hazardous.

10.2.2 Precautions:
Use lead-free glazes. If the glaze does not state "lead-free" or "leadless" on the label, assume it contains lead until proven otherwise.
Lead glazes should only be used on non-foodware items. Design lead-glazed pieces so that they won't be used for food or drink. Lead-glazed pottery should be labeled as lead-containing.
f possible, don't use colorants that are known human carcinogens and avoid probable human carcinogens. There is no known safe level of exposure to carcinogens.
Weight and mix powdered glazes using a movable exhaust hood, or wear a NIOSH-approved toxic dust respirator. Wet glazes are not an inhalation hazard. Good housekeeping procedures and cleanup of spills reduce the risk of inhalation or ingestion of toxic dusts.
Wet mop spilled powders.
Gloves should be worn while handling wet or dry glazes. Barrier creams may cause glazes to creep/crawl during firing.
A spraybooth that exhausts to the outside is needed for glaze spraying. Solvent-based glazes require explosion-proof spraybooths.
If a spraybooth is impossible, individuals wearing a NIOSH-approved respirator with toxic dusts and mists filters, can work in front of a window exhaust fan. A respirator alone won't protect other workers present.
Good dilution ventilation or local exhaust ventilation should be available when applying solvent-containing glazes.
Basic personal hygiene rules should be followed including
restricting eating, drinking, or smoking in the studio, and wearing
personal protective equipment such as gloves, and separate work clothes or coveralls. Wash hands after work.
Leftover glazes and glaze scrapings can be homogenized, combined, tested, and used as a glaze.

10.3 Kilns
Electric kilns and fuel-fired kilns are used to heat the pottery to the desired firing temperature. The most common type are the electric kilns. Heating elements heat the kiln as electric current passes through the coils.The temperature rises until the kiln is shut off.

kilns are heated by burning gas (natural or propane), oil, wood, coke, charcoal or other materials. Propane gas or natural gas is used most often. These kilns can be either located indoors or outdoors. The fuels produce carbon monoxide and other combustion gases. Fuel-fired kilns are usually vented from the top through a chimney.

Temperatures can vary from as low as 800 - 900 C for raku and bisque wares 1000 C, to as high as 1300 C for stoneware, and 1450 C for certain porcelains. The early stages of bisque firing involves the oxidization of organic clay matter to carbon monoxide and other combustion gases. Sulphur breaks down later producing highly irritating sulphur oxides. Also, nitrates and nitrogen-containing organic matter break down to nitrogen oxides.

Galena, Cornish stone, crude feldspars, low grade fire clays, fluorspar, gypsum, lepidolite and cryolite can release toxic gases and fumes during glaze firings. Carbonates, chlorides, and fluorides are broken down to releasing carbon dioxide, chlorine, and fluorine gases.

At or above stoneware firing temperature, lead, antimony, cadmium, selenium and precious metals vaporize and the metal fumes can either escape from the kiln, or settle inside the kiln or on ceramic ware in the kiln. Nitrogen oxides and ozone can be generated from oxygen and nitrogen in air.

10.3.1 Hazards
Chlorine, fluorine, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and ozone are highly toxic by inhalation. Bisque firings of high-sulphur clay have caused the production of great amounts of choking sulphur dioxide.
Other large acute exposures to gases are not common.
Inhalation of large amounts of these gases can result in severe acute or chronic lung problems. Long-term inhalation of low levels of these gases can cause chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Fluorine gas can also cause bone and teeth problems.
Many metal fumes generated at high temperatures are highly toxic by inhalation. Since lead vaporizes at a relatively low temperature, it is especially hazardous.
Carbon monoxide from fuel-fired kilns or the combustion of organic matter in clays is highly toxic by inhalation and can cause oxygen starvation. One symptom of carbon monoxide poisoning is an intense frontal headache, which is not relieved by analgesic medications.
Many gas kilns have small canopy hoods over the exhaust on top of the kiln. These hoods are too small and often don't work adequately, especially during reduction firings, in which where there is a deliberate deficiency of oxygen. Even gas kilns equipped with chimneys often do not capture all the carbon monoxide. Kiln
chimneys may be too short and allow kiln gases to enter nearby
There must be careful planning for additional exhaust systems in the gas kiln area. A lack of makeup air may result in exhaust fans actually pulling carbon monoxide-contaminated air from the gas kilns into the room. Weather conditions also effect the efficiency of kiln draft.
Special effects are obtained by the addition of materials which can generate other toxic kiln emissions.
Hot kilns produce infrared radiation, which is hazardous to the eyes. There have been reports of cataracts, from years of looking inside the hot kilns.
Heat generated by the kiln can cause thermal burns. The Edward Orton Jr. Ceramic Foundation reported that when a kiln was operated at 2370 F (1300 C), the surface temperature, was at and above 595 F (313 C), and the temperature one foot away from the peephole was 156 F (69c ).
Heat produced by even small electric kilns can cause fires in the presence of combustible materials (i.e. wooden floor) or flammable liquids (i.e. solvents).
If an electric kiln fails to shut off, the heating elements melt which can cause fires. Gas kilns also generate a lot of heat, and room temperatures often exceed 100 F (38 C).
Natural gas and propane are fire and explosion hazards. Since propane is heavier than air, it can collect at floor level and not disperse. Compressed gas cylinders containing flammable gases (i.e. propane) should never be store inside a building.

10.3.2 Precautions
Follow the operating instructions and limitations.
The exhaust ventilation fan should always be turned on when the kiln is operating.
Flammables and combustables (i.e. paper, cloth, wood, etc.) should not be placed in a kiln without the authorization on the instructor.
Electric and fuel-fired kilns must have adequate local exhaust ventilation systems, such as a canopy hood. Top-loading electric kilns may have to be enclosed with fireproof curtains since the canopy will be located too high from the kiln top to be effective.
Curtains should be short enough to allow entry of makeup air.
Ready-made, commercial canopy hoods that can be raised or lowered must be rested in actual use for effectiveness.
The Orton Foundation has a direct exhaust system, which attaches to the bottom of octagonal kilns exhausting air inside the kilns through holes made in the top and bottom of the kilns. This system is only effective in relatively new kilns that don't leak.
Electric or fuel-fired kilns should be kept in a separate room to reduce excess heat in the working studio. If no one works in the kiln room, then electric kilns can be safety vented with a window exhaust fan placed near the kiln.
Adequate makeup air should be available for any exhaust systems in the kiln area.
Chimneys should have a high enough stack to prevent exhaust from re-entering the building. High-velocity stack fans may be necessary.
Infrared goggles approved by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) or hand-held welding shields should be worn when looking into the operating kiln. Shade number from 1.7 to 3.0 is recommended, but a darker shade may be required if spots appear in front of one's eyes after looking away from the kiln.
Do not use lead compounds at stoneware temperatures since the lead will vaporize.
Lumber, paper, solvents, or other combustible and flammable materials should not be stored in kiln areas. Raise electric kilns at least a foot off the floor, and place at least two feel from any wall, allowing air circulation. Wooden floors should be protected with non-asbestos containing fireproof materials (e.g. firebrick).
All electric kilns should meet local fire and electrical codes, and should be installed by a licensed electrician.
Electric kilns should have two automatic shut-offs. The primary shut-off should be a cone-operated shut-off or a pyrometer. A timer backup should also be installed to ensure reliability. Always check that the kiln has shut off.
A carbon monoxide alarm should be provided for the area where indoor gas kilns are located.
Gas lines should be installed by qualified personnel.
If gas leaks are suspected (e.g. gas odour): shut off gas at the source; shut off power to the kiln room at the circuit breaker; and call the gas company. Test for leaks with nonfat, soapy water or use approved leak-detection solutions.

10.3.3 Special Processes

While most glaze firings refer to firing a glaze-coated pot in the kiln, special processes sometimes are used. Raku firing is an example. Raku Firing

Raku involves first firing ware at a low temperature in a gas or any other fuel burning kiln, and then removing the still hot pieces and placing them in sawdust, leaves or other organic materials for a reduction phase. Hazards

See above for the hazards and safety precautions used with gas kilns.

The reduction step produces large amounts of smoke and carbon monoxide.
Treated wood or other materials can yield an exposure to highly toxic preservatives or pesticides, such as arsenic and chromium compounds. Precautions

Raku should only be done outdoors because of smoke. Be careful to not locate raku near air intakes or open windows of buildings.
Keep the reduction phase away from any bushes, buildings, or other combustibles which might catch fire.
Do not use materials that have been treated with preservatives or pesticides for the reduction phase.

10.3.4 Potential Leaching of Finished Ceramic Ware Lead Leaching

There is a real concern about lead leaching into food and drink from pottery fired with lead glazes. Both the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Canadian Consumer and Corporate Affairs have regulated how much lead can leach from foodware into food and drink. Acidic liquids are of particular concern. Similarly, continual microwave reheating, (e.g. a coffee mug at work) can yield greater leaching of lead glazes. Many cases of lead poisoning, and even some fatalities, have occurred from the leaching of lead from lead-glazed pottery.

Ceramic ware can be tested by placing acid in the vessel for 24 hours and then testing the liquid to see how much lead has leached.
1991 FDA guidelines give the maximum amount of lead that can leach from various types of ware:

-flatware (plates, saucers, etc.) 3 ppm
-small hollowware (cereal bowls) 2 ppm
-cups and mugs 0.5 ppm
-large hollowware (bowls over 1.1 litre) 1 ppm
-pitchers 0.5 ppm

While commercial ceramics companies routinely test their ware for lead leaching, craft potters do not have the same quality control as does the ceramics industry, and lead leaching is more of a problem.

According to United States regulation, ceramic ware that does not pass the lead leaching tests must have a permanent fired decal stating:


As mentioned earlier, you can also drill a hole in the pottery so it cannot be used for liquids or food.

Preferably, do not use lead glazes, especially for food and drink vessels. Any foodware finished with lead glazes should be tested regularly by certified laboratories. Home kits can be used for testing lead leaching, but one should not rely on these. Barium Leaching in Ceramics
(reprinted from Art Hazards News Vol. 17 No. 3 1994)

Many potters have called us inquiring about the hazards and relevant standards for barium-containing foodware. Although concerned, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which set ceramic leaching standards for lead and  cadmium, doesn't have a requirement for barium. Barium is known to affect the heart, and animal studies have shown elevated blood pressure from prolonged exposure.

At present, the only standard for barium connected to the leaching is the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) set by the Environmental protection Agency (EPA) for drinking water. For barium, the MCL for drinking water is 2 mg/liter. This standard is based on a 10-week human study showing no effect on blood pressure at the level of 10 mg/liter in drinking water, with an additional safety factor.
The 2 mg/liter was set to protect the population most at risk from heart effects - adult men, but would also provide a substantial safety factor for acute barium poisoning in children.

Since there is no present ceramic leaching standard for barium, the use of the MCL of 2 mg/liter would adequately protect people from barium leaching out of ceramic ware used for drinking. Potters who wish to test their ceramic ware for barium leaching can send samples to one of the two labs listed below. Both laboratories use the standard
24-hour acid leaching test mandated by the FDA for lead and cadmium.

1. Elemental Research Lab, 309-267 West Esplanade, North Vancouver, BC, Canada V7M 1A5
(604) 986-0445 (will test many metals)

2. Kirby Health Center Lab, 71 North Franklin Street, Wilkes-Barre, PA 18701, USA
(717) 822-4278

The Canadian Standards Association (CSA) would be interested in receiving copies of test results, along with information on the specific glaze formulation tested (including colorants) and firing temperature. It would be interesting to collect this information to help determine if retain barium formulations leach more, and find out
if certain metal colorants affect the amount of barium leaching. Other Leachable Metals

Other metals can leach into food and drink. Cadmium is the single metal besides lead presently regulated in the United States and Canada.
However, other possible toxic metals in glazes can leach. Barium has been seen in some tests to leach in hazardous amounts from certain glaze formulations. If a barium glaze, or other glaze, changes colour from contact with food, do not use the vessel for food.
Try and use only glazes with calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium fluxes and minimize the amounts of toxic metal colorants. Routine testing for other metal leaching should be done. More research needs to be done in this area.


Back to: