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How To Enjoy Arts And Crafts Hobbies Safely

Aug 17, 2007
We turn to our hobbies to relax and to escape life's many stresses. Thus, it's ironic to learn that our source of comfort can also be a source of danger. Like many activities that are relaxing and therapeutic on the surface, arts and crafts carry their own dangers.

Too often, toxic materials are included in art supplies. For instance, a Canadian art student fell down a stairway after he accidentally inhaled vapors from a freshly opened bottle of turpentine.

Before You Start

* Read the label. Be sure it states conformity to ASTM D-4236, the labeling standard of ASTM International.

* If the label does not satisfy you, or if you intend to use a product in ways other than normal uses, contact the manufacturer for Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs).

* For information on specific products, contact Arts, Crafts and Theater Safety (ACTS) at (212) 777-0062, or their website.

* Do not use products past their expiration date.

* Use all protective equipment specified on the label. Use a mask or gloves that are impermeable to whatever product you are using. Protect cuts or open wounds from exposure.

* Install a ventilation system that removes old air and brings in new air. To test, blow soap bubbles. If they fall to the ground, the system isn't working.

* Be sure you have good lighting and comfortable seating. Keep a fire extinguisher on hand.

The Creative Process

* Do not eat, drink, smoke or apply cosmetics in your work area.

* Take breaks and stretches often.

* Never use products for skin painting or food preparation unless they are labeled for that use.

* Do not transfer art materials to other containers. You will lose valuable safety information listed on the product package.

* Wear a face mask and goggles when spraying paint or fixative. Do the spraying outdoors.

* When possible, use water based paints and inks, and products that don't create dust or mist.

* Hobbyists with allergies or who are pregnant should consult a doctor before engaging in projects.

* Do not keep art materials on your skin, even nontoxic materials.

* Toxic solvents such as turpentine and paint thinner should never be used to cleanse the skin. Use baby oil (mineral oil) followed by soap and water.

* When you clean, use a wet mop or sponge rather than a duster. Dusts can damage lungs.

* Find substitute art materials for those which might be hazardous. For example, water-based adhesives can be used instead of flammable rubber cement.

* Take extreme care when using materials not sold as art materials since they may not have been reviewed for safety. Get MSDSs.

* When they are not in use, keep all materials covered, stored in a safe place, and out of reach of children. Use unbreakable containers.

* Carefully follow suggested disposal methods.

* Do not store a flammable product near heat, sparks or flame. Also, do not heat above the temperature specified on the label.

* After finishing the project, wash yourself and the work surface, and clean your supplies. Leave your work clothes in the work area.

Junior Picassos

Kids love the arts, too. Unfortunately, that fun can be dampened if they come in contact with materials that are toxic and dangerous. (And don't be reluctant to ask the teacher if she is aware of these concerns.)

* Make certain the product is clearly marked for children.

* Use products that have no hazard statements and no precautionary statements for children grade six and under. The word "nontoxic" should be on the label, but follow the same hygiene practices you would if the product were toxic.

* Older children must be supervised when using products labeled with warnings.

* Get MSDSs if you intend to use a product in creative ways, e.g., melting crayons.

* Young children should use only water-based marking pens, not permanent markers.

* No product containing lead should be used by children.

* Teach children to use cutting tools safely, and to not place anything in their mouths.
About the Author
John Myre is the author of the award-winning book, Live Safely in a Dangerous World, and the publisher of the Safety Times Reproducible Articles..
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