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bluesmoosh
03-23-2014, 07:03 PM
What are the necessary safety precautions when using (lead) flake white (oil)? I am always a little paranoid about health and safety and for that reason have avoided flake up to now. But I finally broke down and tried it... and I love it.

I don't really know a ton about chemistry and chemicals. I feel like anything that comes in contact with the paint is contaminated... brushes, palette knives, palette, the sink I wash everything in, even the painting itself. So, is this level of paranoia valid? How thoroughly does the lead wash away? What is the best way to clean and wash? I already use latex gloves. The stuff can't be THAT terrible if artists have been using it forever and haven't routinely died off prematurely... or so I tell myself.

I'm mainly interested in science-based answers or resources which can be backed up. I feel like there are a lot of ideas people cling to for the sake of history, habit, or other reasons that might valid for artistic reasons, but not so much for scientific ones. :) (Also, this same question applies to cadmiums, which I also use but don't really know a lot about!)

Gigalot
03-24-2014, 05:34 AM
You do not need to use gloves, just don't touch non-dried paint with fingers. I can recommend to clean your brushes using separate bottle with White spirit first. Before you finally clean them using soap and water.
Most of lead paint will precipitate on the bottom of this jar. Kitchen apron can protect your clothing perfectly.

Lead white is mostly toxic when ingested, therefore, don't eat or smoke during painting session. Wash hands before eating. With care you can safely use it.

Patrick1
03-24-2014, 01:11 PM
You do not need to use gloves, just don't touch non-dried paint with fingers.
I always end up getting oil paint on my hands - even when I try my best not to. Gloves or no gloves. If anyone can do an oil painting without accidentally smearing paint around and making a mess, he or she is not using oil paint :lol:

Gigalot
03-24-2014, 04:33 PM
I always end up getting oil paint on my hands - even when I try my best not to. Gloves or no gloves. If anyone can do an oil painting without accidentally smearing paint around and making a mess, he or she is not using oil paint :lol:

Agree, Patrick. I always use fingers to paint flat areas, it seems to be better than brush. I don't use lead, but I have many cobalts, cadmium and Strontium chromate paints. I wash hands twice after each paint sessions. But lead is more toxic. I think, it is better do not use it at home. Or you can try to use Lead white when necessary, to paint portrait e.t.c and ordinary Zinc-Titanium white to paint large areas like sky, water.
Drink more milk, milk is a good antidote.

Mythrill
03-25-2014, 09:58 AM
Drink more milk, milk is a good antidote.
Hi, Giga. There's this myth that milk is an antidote against strong, toxic vapors and heavy metal.

It's not.

While milk can relieve the sensation of a burning stomach if it's caused by inhaling fumes, for instance, it will not cure you of chronic exposure to heavy metals.

Heavy metals can either a long time to be removed from the body (zinc oxide, within years,) others, like lead carbonate ("flake white") are never removed from your body through normal means.

What you can do in the case of heavy metal poisoning is to use chelating agents. They will bind to the heavy metal molecules that can't normally be eliminated and be eliminated in your urine. In the specific case of lead, we have Dimercaprol and Dimercapto-propane sulfonate, for instance.

Even then, there are concerns about using chelating agents: excretion from your body is never complete, and the heavy metals you're trying to eliminate could migrate to other areas of your body, like brain tissues or near your joints, where they are harder to eliminate. Due to those risks, chelating agents are only used when you have clear symptoms of heavy metal poisoning.

Mythrill
03-25-2014, 10:11 AM
Bluesmoosh, if you feel bothered by the toxicity of lead, I'd recommend against you using it. As people here said, using gloves and not eating while painting should reduce risks of lead poisoning a lot.

But that's not the point. The point is, if you are really, really bothered to the point of paranoia that lead will poison you, painting will not be a pleasant experience, and the sheer paranoia could cost you your mental health.

As Gigalot said, Blue, what you can do is either to use zinc oxide (PW4,) which is still toxic, but much less dangerous, a blend of zinc and titanium (PW4 + PW6.)

If you want to emulate lead without its toxic properties, you can create your own transparent white. All you need is to use a "filler" (calcium sulphate, calcium carbonate, baryte, alumina, etc) and mix it with linseed oil (I suppose you're using oils, right?) This will create a very pleasing lightening medium.

It might seem "cheap" that those inert fillers could replace lead, but there's no harm in that at all. Velásquez used "putty" (calcium sulphate + calcium carbonate) in its paintings to achieve very transparent effects with his ochres, and it worked quite well.

Also, if you do want a transparent white that emulates lead, all you need is to add a dab of titanium white (or a little more, depending on your taste) to your filler + linseed mix, then add beeswax (to make the paint "stay", like lead does,) and optionally add a tiny bit of yellow ochre to make titanium warmer. Voilá! Not a perfect substitute, but a really nice option to lead, perhaps even better than zinc oxide (PW4!)

And – best of all – non-toxic!

Patrick1
03-25-2014, 06:30 PM
sorry...double posting.

Patrick1
03-25-2014, 06:30 PM
I always use fingers to paint flat areas, it seems to be better than brush.
Wow! I hope you wear gloves. I've been wanting to try using my fingers (nicer than brushes for thin paint applications) ...but wearing gloves for protection. I use thin, transparent plastic, latex or latex-free gloves for painting...and by the end of my session, they are often worn away a bit/ holes on some of the fingertips. I'll try slightly thicker ones, but worry if there will be a loss of finesse.