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View Full Version : Oils, Bad for your Health???


bertk
09-06-2002, 04:26 PM
I have heard and read some articles from the medical profession that long term exposure to turpentine, paint thinners and or oil paint fumes can be very harmful to your health? I love painting with oils but now begin to wonder??? Could some of you shead some light on this for me, thanks:)

G.L. Hoff
09-06-2002, 04:55 PM
Gosh...there's a lot of light to shed. You should look through the archives--try using anything about turpentine, pigments, or solvents as search terms. Consider, too, getting a book about safety in painting. Amazon sells several.

Now then, I suppose as a physician I can answer a lot of this. Here's my take about most health issues in a nutshell:

1) Turpentine is not toxic (at least, not in the sense most people mean) unless you breathe a whale of a lot of it or you drink it. It's absorbed by skin, yes, but it takes enormous amounts to affect the liver or other organs. But. Some people are sensitive to aromatic and aliphatic hydrocarbons (found in turp and mineral spirits and other solvents) and should avoid them. This is not toxicity but sensitivity. Long-term exposure can cause sensitivity.
2) Oil paint doesn't have fumes unless it's mixed with something. Most oil paint is just oil, pigment, and stabilizers or other inert additives (in some cases, notably student grade paint, a lot of additives). Linseed oil or other drying oils could cause problems if you're allergic, but otherwise don't worry about 'em. You can eat all of them.
3) Certain heavy metals and other substances in paint (not just oils--watcolors too) can cause problems if they're ingested or absorbed--cobalt, lead, cadmium, manganese, and others. But the level of exposure to painters is generally very small.

In summary, 1) it's a bad idea to eat in the studio, smoke in the studio, or ingest paint or solvents by mouth. Old time painters used to point their brushes with their lips and ingested paint. Bad idea. 2) keep solvents capped and only use small amounts. 3) ventilate your studio. 4) Don't fear your materials; respect them.

Also, what articles from what magazine or journal? There is a ton of misinformation out there, and my colleagues who aren't painters often promote a certain level of anxiety without meaning to.

Wes Hyde
09-06-2002, 07:34 PM
Basically, take reasonable care. Work in a ventilated area if possible, and read the lables. Some paints, such as Winsor & Newton Artist's Oil Colours, jaune brilliant, have a severe warning label, due to soluble lead, or Aureolin, with soluble cobalt content. Follow Hoff's instructions in his summary, and don't worry, after all, your cholesterol level is bound to kill you first anyway... or stress from worrying about all the things we're told will kill us.

Wes

Fidget
09-06-2002, 07:57 PM
Glad to see this thread. It was a concern for me.
I'm very messy. I don't know how it happens but it get everywhere.

artbabe21
09-06-2002, 09:52 PM
Though I loathe them, I finally gave in and use slim throw away gloves, I think that helps if you're messy. I have found I am not cleaning my hands everytime I need to leave the studio for a few minutes, just remove the gloves......always good to save a little time & be safer:D

Fidget
09-06-2002, 10:02 PM
The gloves are a good idea, but when I make a mess, I mean a mess. Arms, face, floor, Iconoclast.
I still don't know how it happens.

walden
09-07-2002, 09:11 AM
That sensitization process is interesting, Gary-- years ago, by too much careless exposure to epoxy while boatbuilding, I sensitized myself to it (I scoffed at warnings about that, until it happenned to me-- it's not awful, just annoying. Now I either avoid it altogether, or use carefully with gloves, skin protection, and respiratory protection.) I didn't realize that the same thing could occur with solvents. Good info!

arourapope
09-07-2002, 05:26 PM
I make a terrible mess also, but I shower carefully after each painting session, and really scrub the stuff off.
And I make sure I'm never hungry enough to munch on the paint before I start.

paintfool
09-07-2002, 06:25 PM
Originally posted by G.L. Hoff
Don't fear your materials; respect them.
Thanks Doc. This subject surfaces from time to time (which i think is a very good thing) and it always boils down to this very profound statement. :)

Cheryl

N2ART
09-08-2002, 08:26 PM
artbabe & Walden, I too started using gloves but they are hot, especially here in south Florida. However, I have found now that when I don't have them on, I notice. I guess that is a good thing. I started a thread asking about water mix-able (I wrongly said based in the thread) verses traditional oils. I received a lot of information concerning this topic. Health is and should be paramount. However, Dr Gary (paraphrased here) made it clear that exposure AMOUNTS is what matters. He advised using caution, and using common sense.

kirchner
09-18-2002, 07:26 PM
odorless turpenoid has about 98% of the bad stuff removed from it. the odor is what is bad for you.
if you drink while you are painting, keep in mind that carbonated beverages grab onto the nasty stuff in the mediums, thinners, etc and assimilate them into the beverage

Dave Carter
09-19-2002, 10:50 AM
Keeping the paint off of clothing is good, many of us(me) will jump into painting without a thought as to what we are wearing. I for one should have a set of overalls like my mechanic wears. Good too, not to clean your brushes in the coffee cup:eek:

DaveTooner
09-19-2002, 11:38 AM
Long-term exposure can cause sensitivity.

About how long is long-term?

G.L. Hoff
09-19-2002, 11:46 PM
Originally posted by DaveTooner


About how long is long-term?

In general, years.

guillot
09-20-2002, 09:58 AM
Originally posted by kirchner

if you drink while you are painting, keep in mind that carbonated beverages grab onto the nasty stuff in the mediums, thinners, etc and assimilate them into the beverage

Wha?????? :confused:

In essence, carbonation is tiny bubbles of exploding air, how does this "grab" toxins from my paints, mediums, or solvents?

Please explain your theory.

Tina

G.L. Hoff
09-20-2002, 05:39 PM
Originally posted by guillot
Wha?????? :confused: how does this "grab" toxins from my paints, mediums, or solvents?

I'd certainly like to know the mechanism of that, too. A couple of thoughts: First, solvents for oil paint are not soluble in water (they're made to dissolve oil after all), so it makes no sense for them to be incorporated into carbonated beverages, which are water-based. It might be that the carbonic acid in the beverage (carbon dioxide in water will produce some of that) could alter the molecules of solvent, I suppose, but how on earth would the beverage dissolve enough solvent to make someone ill?

Inquiring minds want to know.

kirchner
09-25-2002, 06:16 PM
the bubbles inside the beverage are NOT exploding.. they explode when they reach the top.....anyways this isn't about whether or not they are exploding. all i know is that the MILITANT ENVIRONMENTALIST HUMANIST MASTER PAINTER professor at my VERY PRESTIGIOUS ART SCHOOL is always getting her hands on the latest health issues involved with painting and she had rode my ass about a million times saying that the coca-cola i was drinking was getting more bad particles in it than a non-carbonated beverage. i am NOT A SCIENTIST!! obviously i wouldn't be here if i were, but somehow the carbonated drinks get more of this **** in them. i don't know the science behind it. if i can find any reports on it i'll be glad to post them though.

kirchner
09-25-2002, 06:21 PM
the illness is LONG TERM. you can get heavy metal poisoning and **** like that. the bad particles are not oil-based, they are chemicals and metals both man-made and naturally occouring. some painters i know cannot use oil paints anymore because they have been poisoned by them so much that they cannot breathe, they break out in terrible rashes, etc. PEOPLE! you've gotta take precautions when youre dealing with oil paints, THEY ARE TOXIC! some maybe moreso than others. just be glad that they still don't manufacture paints out of arsenic and the like anymore!

guillot
09-26-2002, 12:20 AM
Sorry, but I'm still confused. Bubble comes to the top, and bursts, letting air out, not in. Carbonates do not implode, so I still do not see the rationale behind this kind of statement. Even if carbonates did implode.....how are they going to "pick up" anything that could be setting 12 inches or more away? I understand that maybe you are not a scientist; for goodness sake neither am I. Maybe your teacher was one of those, and I hate to say it and please don't get offended......"fanatics". I'm the kind of person that when someone makes this kind of statement......I want to see the proof behind it. Period.

Now, it is a scientific fact that cigarette tobacco contains cadmium, and approximately 3,999 other toxins. Unfortunately......I do smoke. But, I don't eat my paint, mediums, or solvents. (I might as well, huh? :D) I know........doc........I really do need to STOP And, that probably wasn't very funny either :evil: !

I just think that some people take some things to the extremes. I would much rather take my creativity to the extremes.

Hope no offense was taken, and thanks for sharing!!

Tina

paintfool
09-26-2002, 02:33 AM
((Tina!)) Maybe someday soon, when the time is right, you and i will both quit smoking. :) I too mean no offense by the following statement and i realize that it is a bit off topic but believe it or not there are people who are scientists and artists and several of them are members of this site. :) so Kirchner, your thought that it would be obvious to us that you wouldn't be here if you were a scientist was lost on me. :) None the less, i do agree that we should take reasonable measures to protect ourselves from toxins but i think Doc Gary said it best when he said that we should respect our materials, not fear them. If we drink our soda and not our turps we will hopefully be painting for a long time.

impressionist2
09-26-2002, 06:46 AM
I have avoided this thread so far because every week there's a new and conflicting report that says, "Don't do this, because it will kill you". Just add the new one to the list.

I don't use any thinners with fumes. However!!! turpenoid clearly states that although it's fumes are odorless, you are inhaling them and they are Toxic, SO still ventilate your work area well. Turpenoid is the exception to the old saw, "If you smell it, it's killing you". ( does not apply to Mom's home cooking! Hah!)

I use gloves for two reasons. The first is that I was a commercial sign painter for years and it is widely known in the sign community ( hand painters) that all chemicals are absorbed into your body, through your skin. My boss had tumors in his elbow from pouring thinners over his hands and arms to clean off the oil based paint, for years.

Secondly, we all know that even with scrubbing some of the paint is still showing on our fingers and hands. When you pick up food, microscopic pieces of leftover paint are going to rub off your fingers onto your food. Cells flake off constantly. Now you are eating your paint. Do this enough times over the years and you might wind up with a big problem. Artist beware.

Btw, your everyday household cleaning products are not to be inhaled or ingested either. :)

Renee

walden
09-26-2002, 07:06 AM
Taking reasonable precautions makes good sense-- I do it myself. But, people inclined to worry excessively about health issues (I am one of them, sort of a mild hypochondriac, although I try very hard not to be) might want to consider reading parts of the book "The Skeptical Environmentalist". The guy who wrote it is a scientiest and former Greenpeace member. Anyway, it is extremely well-researched and written in such a way that it makes the science of chemicals and things accessible to non-scientists. The chapter on chemicals & pesticides & toxins really set my mind at rest in a lot of ways-- really clarified the issues of relative risk.

The truth is that we humans are VERY bad at assessing true risk unless we work at it. We will spend inordinate energy worrying about contaminents measured in parts per billion, then jump into our cars without a second thought, sometimes without a seat belt. Guess what's going to kill us. :D

kelleybee
09-26-2002, 08:24 AM
http://www.gamblincolors.com/safety.html

Gamblin also has good studio safety information at the above site. I'm not pushing their products but will admit to using gamsol instead of terps. I really like their Solvent Comparison Chart.

MikeN
09-26-2002, 08:37 AM
So is Turpenoid just oderless mineral spirits?

Thanks,
Mike

kelleybee
09-26-2002, 03:15 PM
http://www.gamblincolors.com/materials/solchart.html

This will give you info on Turpenoid compared with others.

G.L. Hoff
09-27-2002, 12:39 AM
Originally posted by kirchner
the illness is LONG TERM. you can get heavy metal poisoning and **** like that. the bad particles are not oil-based, they are chemicals and metals both man-made and naturally occouring. some painters i know cannot use oil paints anymore because they have been poisoned by them so much that they cannot breathe, they break out in terrible rashes, etc. PEOPLE! you've gotta take precautions when youre dealing with oil paints, THEY ARE TOXIC! some maybe moreso than others. just be glad that they still don't manufacture paints out of arsenic and the like anymore!

Actually, "they" do manufacture paint out of arsenates, and lead, and cadmiums, and other metals. You're right about long-term illness, too. But there is absolutely no need to be alarmist. As I said above, painters should respect their materials, not fear them.

I have a hunch that your teacher wasn't talking about oil solvents in the air but about particles in the studio air that can settle out. The carbonic acid in a beverage could possible dissolve some and you could then ingest it. As I also said above, it's a bad idea to eat (read: ingest) in the studio. That goes for drinks, too.

What I didn't and don't get is how a solvent's fumes could be incorporated into a drink. If one sprays particulate matter in the presence of a drink, yes, it can get into the liquid. But there is no data I can find that says that the heavy metals in the paint can get 1)into the air and 2)settle into a drink without being aerosolized. And regular painting doesn't do that.

Again, the main thing is to respect one's materials. Long-term illnesses and sensitivities can generally be avoided fairly easily with a bit of common sense.

G.L. Hoff
09-27-2002, 12:46 AM
Originally posted by MikeN
So is Turpenoid just oderless mineral spirits?

Thanks,
Mike

Yeah, mostly, as far as I can tell, but like the Gamblin solvent and several others, it also has a proprietary formula. If memory serves (I don't use it) the label doesn't list ingredients.