View Full Version : are antique pastels TOXIC?

08-21-2002, 12:50 AM

I aquired a box of pastels that may be from the late 1800's, Germany.
Well I was curious to see if they still "worked" so I tried them out.
The pigment is vibrant, they hold well to the paper . . . I was surprised because they seem perfect.

THEN my eyes got cloudy and started burning . . . I hadn't blown dust around at all. Don't even think I stuck my finger in my eye. :)

Well it's been a few hours now, my eyes are feeling a little better now but still kind of irritated....
SO I'm wondering if antique pastels are toxic?
Ever heard anything about this???

should I toss them?


Laura Brito
08-21-2002, 08:15 AM
Antique Pastels could and probably do have materials in them that today's do not, things that no one knew were dangerous or they knew but still made them because there was no alternative. I have been reading up on this subject and that is where I have gathered that info. I have some older rembrandts and even those are not made today, I suspect it is before some oxides, and metals were removed from the ok list to use. (they are 20+ years old)

I don't think that you got the eye thing though from using these, but it is quite possible, if so I wouldn't use them and I don't know what to tell you to do with them, they probably are collectable, but I would be very vary if children are even near.

Good Luck!


08-21-2002, 10:58 AM
Some colors, such as the cadmiums I think, are toxic. I think some brands still include a few colors that are considered toxic because they contain heavy metals, while some brands have changed their colors slightly to not include any toxid ones. I never heard of them affecting your eyes from only one use though, so I doubt it is from them. The danger is more from long term inhalation and possibly through your skin. It's possible that you might be allergic to something in them, though.

08-22-2002, 12:06 AM
Last week I painted in an area with several others and used my pastels. I didn't even see any dust...but one of the other ladies told me later that she was getting "stuffed up" from all the dust! She was just more susceptible to it than I am.

Use your antique pastels outside for plein air painting! That should give you enough fresh air...and be sure to wash your hands well! I read recently that pastels never wear out! so no matter the age, they should be usable in some way.

08-22-2002, 12:13 AM
I appreciate you all taking the time to answer.
I'm starting to wonder if maybe it wasn't the pastels at all . . . maybe it is my old toolbox that I converted to an art supplies cabinet . . . it smells slightly of mold.
not fun being an allergic type.

But thanks again ---
great info!!


Laura Brito
08-22-2002, 01:59 PM
Oh and another option, I would use gloves with them, even in Plein Air painting, that using them outdoors is a very good idea! I should have thought of that hehe

Good Luck!