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MITRA Forum Question Details

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  • Acrylic, Oil painting Air Quality ComparisonsApproveRejectUn-ApproveSubscribeUn-Unsubscribe
    Question asked 2019-05-31 09:00:12 ... Most recent comment 2019-06-03 10:29:27
    Oil Paint Studio Tools and Tips

    ​I wonder if there have been any studies comparing the air quality, when using acrylic paints versus oil paints without solvents. My oil painting class is treatened because of lack of ventilation.

Answers and Comments

  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    ​I will leave this for someone from the industry to comment on first.

    Brian Baade
    2019-05-31 13:22:01
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    I'm not aware of any formal study directly comparing tube oils and acrylics in terms of impact on air quality, but acrylic dispersion paints and oil colors are well documented in terms of safety by the SDS for each product, which is prepared by a toxicologist or other qualified health professional. These documents for acrylic products typically include language like "low inherent toxicity" and "does not require personal protective equipment". The exception involves spray application (e.g. airbrush) which is not normally done in the classroom. 

    If by "oil paints without solvents" you mean something like water-miscible oil paints, you can also rely on the SDS for each product, and assuming your solvent/diluent is water, that should cover any associated risks. If "without solvents" means using an essential oil as a substitute for turpentine, however, I'm not sure you could warrant that as 100% without risk for all. There is a lot of documentation about risks associated with turpentine, for instance, through its use in ceramics and other industries, but there are few industrial applications for, say, essential oil of lavender. 

    So, especially where the SDS indicates that  there are no significant risks, ​I can't see how traditional tube oils without solvents or acrylic paints and mediums could significantly affect air quality in a classroom. It's not always well understood that unopened tube oil colors generally contain no solvents at all, or insignificant traces from minute amounts of driers. People sometimes say they don't like the smell of the vegetable oil vehicles in oil paint, but that's an aesthetic issue (barring a genuine allergy), not a health/safety one as with hydrocarbon solvents, turpentine, alcohol, etc.

    If you are being challenged to prove the safety of materials in your classroom, it really wouldn't be all that difficult to simply restrict students to items that carry the AP seal of the ACMI or other indication that they have no significant toxicity. Keep a copy of the SDS for each product used, and reach out to the retail vendor or manufacturer for a copy of anything you can't find yourself. And, make sure students aren't bringing in substitutes- there's usually one inconsiderate jerk with a can of "paint thinner" that stinks up the joint.

    Matthew Kinsey, Utrecht Art Supplies
    2019-05-31 14:32:05
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    ​We are also not aware of any comparative studies. However, regardless of the type of paint, or whether or not it is labelled as "non-toxic", some level of ventilation is usually a good idea in group painting activities, especially if the odors become irritating or participants start to feel even mildly unwell from the vapors and odors. There is a broad spectrum of chemical sensitivity among artists, and those with the worst often have one thing in common:  long hours of shared studio space in college. It would be a shame if your class is cancelled because the facility cannot meet this need.

    Mirjam Hintz, Golden Artist Colors

    Mirjam Hintz
    2019-06-03 10:29:27

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