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  • Toxicity of pastel pigmentsApproveRejectUn-ApproveSubscribeUn-Unsubscribe
    Question asked 2016-12-05 15:49:00 ... Most recent comment 2016-12-07 11:03:00
    Pastel Health and Safety
    Question
    Are there any health hazards when blending pastels with bare hands?
Answers and Comments
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser CommentThe product MSDS should give indications for skin contact- the Sennelier pastel MSDS instructs: "Wear suitable protective gloves in the event of prolonged or repeated skin contact". Better grades of soft pastels and oil pastels include many of the same pigments as tube paints, so it makes sense to limit contact with bare skin, just like paint. If the product package carries the AP symbol of the ACMI indicating safe for all ages, blending with fingers is probably OK for the artist, though oils from the skin can be deposited on the paper, causing discoloration. Matthew Kinsey, Utrecht Art Supplies
    2016-12-05 19:19:25
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser CommentIt depends on the pastels you are using and their formulation. The Safety Data Sheet (formerly known as an MSDS) should give you some information on the hazards and the appropriate precautions. The supplier or manufacturer should provide you with the new 16-section format of this document either with the packaging or on their website. However, formulations for many artist's materials are often proprietary and are not bound by the same standards as other chemicals, so the information may not be complete. Pastels consist of pigments and a vehicle such as inert minerals, oil, wax. The pigments are a concern with pastels and all the same hazards present with pigments found in other artist's materials apply here. Pigments are not well absorbed through the skin (but may cause irritation), although elements of the vehicle (oil, preservatives, etc.) might be. Using your hands means there's a better chance of cross contamination or ingestion. These can be controlled with good hygiene practices (wearing gloves, washing hands, not eating or drinking around your artwork/materials, etc.). However, with pastels the primary health risk is associated with inhalation more than skin contact. According to "The Artist's Complete Health and Safety Guide" (3rd Edition): "It is essentially impossible to use dry pastels safely, because artists will be exposed to respirable-sized pigment and vehicle particles...A HEPA-filtered dust mask and special ventilation may reduce exposure...Oil pastels are easy to use safely, because they contain small amounts of oils and waxes, which keep dust from getting airborne." Note that the pigment itself doesn't have to be toxic (like lead or cadmium) to cause respiratory problems. The text also references the fact that artists who work exclusively with pastels have specially designed ventilation systems and to contact Arts, Crafts, & Theater Safety (http://www.artscraftstheatersafety.org/) for more information. Of course, it's always best to wear gloves. Kerith Koss Schrager, Objects Conservator, Co-Chair AIC Health & Safety Committee
    2016-12-05 21:38:44
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser CommentYou can use a hand protector cream before you start to work. This will create a barrier between your skin and the pigments. Remember, the primary means of hazard with pastels is via inhalation.
    2016-12-06 15:48:18
  • EditDeleteModerator AnswerII do not think that barrier creams are very helpful in this instance as the pigments would simply come back into contact with your skin when you wash off the cream in water. I suppose you could wipe your hands well before washing but again, it does not seem that the cream would be very helpful. It is more effective at keeping solvents and solvent born materials off of the skin where the materials can be wiped away or even evaporate before the hands are washed. As everyone wrote, inhalation is the primary issue and not skin absorption, unless the artist is working with cuts and wound on their hands.
    Baade, Brian
    2016-12-06 17:32:14
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser CommentI would be very cautious with the use of barrier creams. The primary purpose of these creams is to prevent contact dermatitis and irritation NOT necessarily to prevent chemical exposure and there are controversies about their effectiveness in scientific studies. In some cases they have been shown to actually increase the absorption of certain chemicals. No one material can protect you from all chemicals. Glove manufacturers will provide you with information on what material works for a specific chemical (nitrile gloves are not sufficient for acetone for example). There is also no way of knowing if you've applied the cream thick enough or with complete coverage. Kerith Koss Schrager
    2016-12-09 09:12:29
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser CommentI should also mention barrier creams should only be used for very light or occasional exposure and exactly as described by the manufacturer to make sure it is the correct kind for what you are doing (oil, solvent, acid, for example). And that these creams shouldn't be worn under gloves.
    2016-12-09 09:30:16
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser CommentI should also mention barrier creams should only be used for very light or occasional exposure and exactly as described by the manufacturer to make sure it is the correct kind for what you are doing (oil, solvent, acid, for example). And that these creams shouldn't be worn under gloves. Kerith Koss Schrager
    2016-12-09 09:32:26
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