Indeed, its health and safety issue in the Art world. Who would have thought that it matters? Perhaps, if I didn’t have a science background I too would have remained ignorant about the hazards that are associated with the art supplies. How many of you know what’s in an artist’s pigment?
If any art material has a hazard warning mentioned on the back of the paint I take notice. Health and safety aren’t often mentioned in connection with fine arts, but we are exposed to more toxins than we may be aware of. You may know that the cadmiums, cobalts, chromes, lead are toxic but what about your other paint colors? Are they toxic? I am not saying do not use such paints. In fact, I believe that would be pretty much impossible, but you should know what you are handling. Simply because ignorance is not bliss!
I don’t want to write a scientific post here but just a little chemistry: most, but not all, of the toxicity issues are associated with heavy metals such as copper, cobalt, cadmium, lead, chromium etc. Chronic exposure to these poisons the body, and many are known or suspected to be carcinogens. If you remember your periodic table from high school chemistry class, these are transition metals from that central section. So a quick rule of thumb is that if there’s heavy metal in pigment, it’s probably toxic.
Safety is as simple as ABC = Always Be Careful1