View Full Version : please help! toxic warnings?

turpentine soup
03-26-2002, 04:21 AM
i just bought a big tube of titanium white. i don't really pay attention to the 'Warnings' but my sis found my oil paint and pointed it out.

it says- WARNING: this product contains lead, a chemical known to the state of california to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm. WARNING: do not spray apply. this product contains cadmium, a chemical known to the state of california to cause cancer by means of inhalation.

now, how real are these warnings? do you guys pay attention to them? i've used this product before, sometimes around little kids. how harmful is that? are artist' paints dangerous to health? how can they harm me anyway? through inhalition? digestion? physical contact? what are your opinions on the matter?

should i throw my brand new titanium white paint away?
or is it only harmful when i use like 100 tubes? chances are, all the paints i'm using (and have used) contain toxins anyways.

anyone know of a specific oil paint brand that does not contain harmful chemicals? and are there safety precautions one can take? sorry. am i being paranoid? i'm not always alone when i paint and i'm concerned for the people around me. in your experience, how harmful are these products?

i haven't even read the label on my turpentine...



03-26-2002, 04:33 AM
Don't be too afraid. You shouldn't eat the colour and you should paint when little kids are around. That's all I can say.

03-26-2002, 05:30 AM
Artist quality paints are professional tools and not intended for children. Don't let them play with it (along they're still probably pretty safe anyway). As long as you're not spraying the paint they'll be fine around it - no particles in the as. (as long as they don't mind the smell too but i wouldn't use turps around kids either because of the danger of fumes. BUT friends of mine do and have studios at home and older kids (11ish) who enjoy painting with them.)

The contents you list are strange... as far as I know titanium white doesn't contain lead (lead or kremnitz white does) or cadmium (but cadmium colours do). Sounds like it might be a general label for the whole brand range? Not sure.


03-26-2002, 02:58 PM
I too was puzzled about the label claiming that this paint contains lead and cads, but Timelady is probably right, more than likely it's the entire line of paints that they are talking about. At any rate, due care should always be taken when handling your materials but oil paints will not cause any harm by inhalation. If you keep your materials out of the reach of children and don't put your brushes in your mouth (i'm guilty of this one) you should be fine. It's always best to have decent ventilation because of the fumes from your mediums and thinners but with a little common sense you can enjoy your oils without being afraid of them. There are a couple of products that are extremely toxic though. Cobalt Drier comes to mind. This is used to accelerate drying time and should never be used without rubber gloves. It's not one of the more commonly used products and if you have health concerns you should probably avoid it. It's always a good idea to wash your hands after painting.

03-27-2002, 06:48 PM
Turps, Titanium White oil paint should contain titanium dioxide pigment, the oil binder and maybe a small amount of stabiliser, nothing else. The label appears to be generic which it should not be, who made it BTW?

To answer your other questions in order:
How real are these warnings?
The warnings are real (but usually a bit more accurate than in this case!) and one should pay attention to them if they're there. The labelling of artists materials in the US has to adhere to strict regulations under the Labelling of Hazardous Art Materials Act. There are two basic categories that paint generally falls into, those requiring no health labelling and those requiring some sort of warning of the kind you mention for lead and cadmium. Most synthetic organic pigments fall into the first category (e.g. quinacridones) and those made from natural or synthetic heavy metal compounds fall into the latter (lead, cadmium and chromium for example).

Are artists' paints dangerous to health?
Some are, some aren't. A good rule of thumb is to treat them all as potentially harmful and that way you don't really have to sweat the really dangerous ones. If you want the specifics on the colours you actually use yourself check the labels for the pigment names and post a list here if you like.

Remember painters used a range of pigments for centuries containing lead, copper, mercury and even arsenic, often handling the dried pigments on a regular basis, and there are few recorded cases of any ill-effects.

I've used this product before, sometimes around little kids. How harmful is that?
Well unless you're spray-applying or sanding the dried paint film with them around, and using toxic pigments in the first place, I wouldn't lose any sleep. To put the risk into perspective, remember lead was used as an anti-knocking agent in gasoline for nearly a century.

How can they harm me anyway? Through inhalation? Digestion? Physical contact?
With regard to paint, ingestion is just about the only route pigments can enter your body under normal conditions. The admonitions to always wash your hands after painting are because it is a route to ingestion, not because they are inherently dangerous by physical contact.

In actual fact turpentine and some white spirits are the most toxic element of the typical oil painter's materials as they are mildly toxic by contact (and can be by inhalation) and the effects are known to be cumulative for those who are susceptible.

Should I throw my brand new titanium white paint away?
No, it is one of the safest pigments in use today. In actual fact this is one colour you could probably eat without any ill effects!

Anyone know of a specific oil paint brand that does not contain harmful chemicals?
Most brands use the same types and very often the exact same pigments used by the others (with the exception of some ranges that use no heavy metal compounds at all). Put the risk during normal use into perspective and don't worry about it.

Are there safety precautions one can take?
If you find you have paint on your hands in the normal course of your painting be careful about wiping your eyes; don't eat while you paint; don't smoke while you paint and wash your hands thoroughly after you're finished. That's about all you need to do if you paint like most people.

If you ever sand or scrape your dried paint films the dust might be harmful so wear a good dust mask, use good ventilation and vacuum your working area when you're done.


turpentine soup
03-29-2002, 01:30 PM
titanium white
oil color

pigment: titanium dioxide, zinc oxide (PW5, PW4)

thats exactly what it says on the label :)

this is so weird. i found my old tube of white (exact same brand and color and pigment and everything, except its a smaller tube) and at the back, it says- "no health labeling required"

hmm... very confusing. on the new tube, there are warnings on the box and on the tube itself. odd. maybe its just a mistake or maybe they just decided to stick the warnings now...

it's a mystery :)

i checked my other colors. no chemical warnings so far.

anyways, thanks for the info , suggestions and tips everyone. i appreciate.


03-29-2002, 02:21 PM
Turps ,

California may have gone even stricter.

Zinc occurs with Lead and maybe Cadmium.
There maybe less than 1 % Lead or Cadmium
left in 100 % Zinc or Zinc Oxide.

This - maybe - what the warning is dealing
Yes , I saw it on the Artisan White as well.

Hmm , if there is less than 20 % Zinc Oxide
in Titanium White and Zinc / Titanium White ,
how much Lead Oxide or Cadmium whatever
is there the tube ???

*Wow , such strict rules.

Einion , in the US they are already eating FOOD
GRADE titanium dioxide.
It's on their packages as an ingredient .

03-29-2002, 07:45 PM
Originally posted by Titanium
in the US they are already eating FOOD
GRADE titanium dioxide.
It's on their packages as an ingredient .
Yep! I've seen this a lot. Food labels can be very scary! I don't understand a LOT of what's on them. This is why i eat very little processed food. I know this is off topic... sorry.

03-30-2002, 08:45 PM
This is a good example of misleading paint naming (there outta be a law!) and the "non-yellowing" is pretty funny, I'd love to see them prove that! :evil:

Hi Titanium, yep they sure are and any black printing on oral medications is invariably a carbon black.


03-31-2002, 03:11 AM
I am quite glad this is in here, mainly because i "finger paint" with oils all the time and i never paid attention to the labels either.... just the price :)

Isn't lead only harmful if inhaled? Thats why they stopped making lead based paints (for walls)... because they would flake off and be inhaled. I have also heard of little kids teathing and using window seals as teathers... not good.

I agree with everyone... dont eat your paint, and dont breath it ;)

03-31-2002, 04:40 AM
On the Grumbacher Message Board (when it was working) someone asked that and the answer is that ther is minute amounts of lead in the zinc white pigment, and the labels are only necessary in California due to their stricter laws.

This is an oil painting thread, but there are some toxic pigments that can be absorbed through skin in watercolor. Accroding to Daniel Smith, cobalt violet is one of these, don't rememebr the other but I think it's another cobalt pigment.

About edible titanium: is it bleached or unbleached? And how do they bleach titanium oxide?

Scott Methvin
03-31-2002, 04:51 PM
Originally posted by Titanium

Einion , in the US they are already eating FOOD
GRADE titanium dioxide.
It's on their packages as an ingredient .

I bet it is in that non-dairy coffee whitener. Mighty opaque:)

04-02-2002, 04:15 PM
Originally posted by Domer
About edible titanium: is it bleached or unbleached? And how do they bleach titanium oxide?
I'm guessing they use the white pigment because white is so useful a basis and it makes a good opacifier too - many toothpastes contain some for instance.

Titanium white comes from two basic mineral compounds, rutile, buff coloured, and ilmenite, usually black (!) because it contains iron. The processing of the raw material is complex so to call it bleaching is a bit of a misnomer. Particle size plays a part too - the finer the powder the more light is scattered so it appears the whitest.