View Full Version : Soft Pastel Safety - Titanium Dioxide (PW6)

wet rag
12-06-2017, 06:28 PM

Ive just started out on my journey of discovery using soft pastels/panpastels (only in the last week) and have purchased four sets to try (Inscribe, Sennelier, Rembrandt and Panpastels - a bit crazy, I know, but I'd been so excited by the potential using the cheaper Inscribe :D) Only today did I see a warning given regarding Titanium white being a possible cause of cancer (pigment PW6)

This is quite a concern to me and wonder if anyone has any further information on this classification of PW6 and its potential risks? (I see that this pigment can be found in quite a number of every day items :/)

Ive already opened three of the four sets to try out.

I must admit, before I engaged in any informative reading about using this medium, I was like a mad-man using the Inscribe pastels and before long my house and I were covered in dust - so much rainbow dust! lol. Since then, I know not to blow the dust.

I look forward to any info that can help settle this concern.



Ps...is there a way to avoid having green in your sky when painting a sunset with pastels? (seen in my attached painting) Certain colours? I have used a little red to try and mute the green but still, I'd prefer a different approach. Thanks :)

water girl
12-06-2017, 08:09 PM
Hello! Welcome to the pastel forum. I'm not familiar with the Inscribe brand. It may be student grade? Perhaps someone can address that. I do use Rembrandt and Sennelier. I'm very careful with the dust. No blowing, for sure. I frequently take my work outside and tap the back of my drawing board to dislodge dust.
Your softer pastels should pass over and cover the "green situation".

12-07-2017, 12:00 AM
Welcome! The trouble with reading and doing research is that you will eventually find out that it is all dangerous! Part of the reason is partial knowledge - which is often worse than no knowledge, internet knowledge - which is often just plain wrong,:eek: and part of the problem is the health labeling as it exists today. Here is information about Titanium Dioxide from the Dick Blick Art supply website:

Titanium dioxide is highly stable and is regarded as completely non-toxic. Animal studies give no indiciation that it is absorbed biologically, even after long periods of exposure. The primary safety concern is with inhalation of fine pigment dust particles. Titanium White, if inhaled in large amounts over the course of several years, may cause a benign pneumoconiosis that is visible on x-rays. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) considers fine titanium dioxide particles, if inhaled, to be a human carcinogen. The primary concern for artists is to avoid exposure to fine particulate dust from raw pigments.
So, based on this info, if you aren't making pastels from raw pigment, you should have no concerns at all - at least as far as it being carcinogenic.

Since we are dealing with small dust particles, it is however a good idea to avoid the dust as much as possible by wearing a dust mask while painting with pastels, and minimizing dust in the air by doing a lot of vacuuming, not blowing on your painting and using some sort of dust catch tray on your easel. Like any dust particles, it can cause respiratory difficulties if inhaled.

One problem with the CA 65 labeling is that if a product has even one particle of hazardous substance, it has to get the CA 65 label - even if, let's say, it has 1 part per million of that hazardous substance and it would take 1,000 parts per million to actually harm anyone. So you can have a CA 65 label on a product that also has a non-toxic classification. At least that is how I understand it, but I may be wrong, too.

So, getting back to Titanium White, since it is an ingredient in many (if not a majority) of pastels, some companies give each of those pastels a CA 65 label - others do not bother. However, based on the information given in the info above, none of them is actually hazardous in pastel form - only in the raw pigment form and possibly only in large quantities.

As far as sunsets go, whether in pastels or other media, the best advice I ever got was don't mix yellow and blue. Yes, many sunsets have blue turning to yellow, but when I paint those types of sunsets, I make sure I separate any blue and yellow - often with oranges and reds. Or I just turn the yellows into reds and magentas!


wet rag
12-07-2017, 06:11 AM
Thanks water girl.

Yes, good point regarding the softer pastels over the 'green situation'.

wet rag
12-07-2017, 06:20 AM
Hi Don,

You make some good points.

I suppose its about who's conclusion we choose to trust tempered with a certain amount of 'balance'. Afterall, this titanium dioxide is also in make-up and toothpaste etc. I think we are all being slowly poisoned by 'modernity' in some form or shape. Whether art shop or health agency, each must have an agenda.

I was a little bit extra concerned due to a current health problem I have, that I just dont wish to exacerbate.

Thanks too for your suggestion regarding 'greens' in the sky. Obviously I must become a little more deliberate in how I separate certain hues :)


12-07-2017, 09:57 AM
Titanium is the least of my worries. Probably one of the safest pigments on earth. Good old Raw Sienna "dirt" can have more toxins in it than refined Titanium pigment. I work with Cadmium, Lead and Cobalt every day with no health problems. I just keep the stuff out of my digestive tract and my lungs. It isn't that difficult to be safe.The CA 65 label is a monument to government stupidity in my view.

Many companies put the CA 65 label on EVERYTHING they make just so they can't be fined for selling something that might have an unknown microscopic amount of the "deadly" items known to the "Sky is falling" state of California.... The entire deal has become a sick joke in my opinion. It is a worthless label and program, wasting millions of dollars for nothing, since everything will eventually have to have a label by law. I have seen them on chairs, shoes, water bottles, clothing and more - LUDICROUS! Sadly, as goes California on the out of control government regulations and intrusions, eventually goes the rest of the country so it seems.

A law gone wrong.... (http://www.anh-usa.org/how-did-californias-prop-65-law-go-so-wrong/)

Aloe Vera? Please..... (http://www.capoliticalreview.com/top-stories/aloe-vera-added-to-prop-65-list/)

When everything is a threat... (https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130416/16513122731/if-everything-is-threat-then-nothing-is.shtml)

wet rag
12-07-2017, 10:05 AM
.....and the rest of the world, it would seem...Im in England :)

But yes, I think you are right in that summary. Something I am seeing myself in regards to this concern, and elsewhere.

Thanks for your input, contumacious.


12-07-2017, 02:02 PM
As I understand it, the risk of inhaling too much dust is considerably higher. Cadmium pigments are now prepared in a much less toxic way but still meet those CA standards, etc.

So I drew the line on my grandkids. Underage artists only get the brands that use non toxic pigments, like my 13 year old granddaughter. I get to use the adult pastels and not, say, eat them or smudge them on my cigarettes or anything like that. Try not to breathe the dust.

Number one safety rule for not breathing the dust:

Do not blow on your painting to get rid of dust. Instead, take it off the easel or table, turn it upside down over a trash can and snap the back firmly. This knocks the dust off and down into the trash. It's not hard to fall into the rhythm of snap tapping the dust off of pastels. This is the first line of defense against getting too much dust - and you will notice it if you pastel for hours and have the dust floating around all the time. It's like any dust and will get annoying in the nose.

Beyond that, a dust mask can help, some artists go beyond that and use special ones with air filters, or have what I used to - a really nike external dust filter that scrubbed the air in my room. I had it in my room because I smoked and a child in the house was allergic, so I only smoked right on top of that. THen when I painted, wow the pastel dust got sucked in. These cost several hundred to a couple thousand dollars BUT they also keep down house dust, smoke, other odors, anything else in your air and if you have allergies it can make your studio tons more livable.

I'd like one again and will get it after I get my studio-cottage built. First planned large purchase after I move in, actually.

12-07-2017, 02:06 PM
About green in sunsets... I've been studying the sunsets and dawns around here and noticed that sometimes there just is a little green at the edges where the yellows and blue meet. It's not usually major if you don't let that mixed area get out of hand in area - if the gradient is blended smooth. But you can also block that nicely by drifting a pink-violet cloud in the way of it too, break it up with other features of either landscape or sky to avoid that.

Sometimes it's very grayish. Often it's fleeting and distinctly golden to one side and blue-green to the other. But it's there in the actual sky, so I stopped worrying about including it. When it happens, it does.