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MITRA Forum Question Details

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  • Oil Paint SafetyApproveRejectUn-ApproveSubscribeUn-Unsubscribe
    Question asked 2018-03-09 14:49:12 ... Most recent comment 2018-03-12 06:04:24
    Oil Paint
    Question

    Hi, I work in an istitution that provides art education. They wish to ban oil paints because they believe it to be toxic.

    Is there some facts or arguments I can provide them to dispell their belief?

    Thank You

    Steven Lewis

Answers and Comments
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    Artists' oil colors themselves are generally very safe if used according to package directions, especially the colors which carry the AP seal indicating certified non-toxic by a health care professional, safe for all ages. Not all oil colors are non-toxic, but many are. The few colors which require special safety labeling are still very safe to use by individuals who are able to read, comprehend and follow package instructions.

    Linseed oil (the standard oil paint vehicle) is a vegetable oil which is not toxic. Linseed oil does have a characteristic odor some find unpleasant, but the smell is not harmful. Combustion warnings on linseed oil packages refer to the possibility that oil-saturated rags, gloves and steel wool can build heat through oxidation sufficient to catch fire; this is also a possibility with cooking oils. Oil stored in a bottle or jar poses no combustion risk.

    Solvents commonly used with oil paints carry some risks, but these risks can be minimized depending on type of solvent, classroom configuration and equipment, and on number of students. Solvents can be avoided altogether by using water-miscible oil paints. In order to safely work with oil painting solvents, the workspace must be adequately ventilated. There must also be proper receptacles for disposing of waste solvent and medium, and students must understand and follow rules governing what materials are permitted and how to use them. ​

    Matthew Kinsey, Utrecht Art Supplies
    2018-03-09 16:12:19
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    ​I completely agree with Matthew's comments. And would like to stress that just because something is hazardous doesn't mean it can't be used--you just have to know how to handle it properly. You have a great opportunity as art educators to teach artist's about health and safety in their work practices. It's so important that they learn early in their careers. It's unlikely that they will completely avoid all hazardous art materials their entire lives.

    Kerith Koss Schrager
    2018-03-09 17:14:53
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser Comment

    ​Thank you, for the reply. How does it compare to acrylics? I personally prefer oils as a medium to work with. 

    2018-03-09 17:32:02
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    I just want to introduce a different perspective concerning the reliance on ACMI's AP Non-Toxic statement on labels as we abandoned using that standard many years ago for principled reasons, believing the term "non-toxic' was misleading and promoted a false sense of safety in using materials. While the following is from a piece about the labeling for Golden acrylics, the reasoning would be the same for all our lines:

    "Our concern with the "nontoxic" message was for several reasons. First, potentially toxic chemicals are likely present at some level in all products, regardless of risk assessment; second, it is inappropriate to assume that all possible chronic hazards of chemicals are currently known; and third, personal exposure should be prevented when using chemical products. Over the years, feedback from our customers indicated that reading "nontoxic" on the label implied the paints could be used for things we did not intend; such as body painting, painting with the fingers or tongue, tattooing, and decorating dishware."

    We strongly support the full disclosure of all known health hazards on labels and feel it is important to point out that ASTM D4236 legally requires all art materials undergo toxicological review and carry chronic health hazard and precautionary statements on the label. So always look for those as a way to guide your choices. We just wanted to make clear that not all companies agree with ACMI's use of the term "Non-Toxic" on products.

    Sarah Sands, Senior Technical Specialist, Golden Artist Colors
    2018-03-10 06:43:22
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser Comment

    Thank you​

    2018-03-12 06:04:24
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  • The Department of Art Conservation
  • 303 Old College
  • University of Delaware
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  • Phone: 302-831-3489
  • art-conservation@udel.edu