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Chris Hargens
04-14-2010, 07:08 PM
I've just started painting again after being away from it for a long time. I was lucky enough to receive a large assortment of acrylic paints, mediums, and gels. I've noticed that when I paint for more than 30 minutes I start to feel a bit woozy and my nose and eyes feel a bit stuffy. It doesn't seem to matter whether I'm painting indoors with a fan blowing air out through my garage or outdoors with a breeze flowing over the palette. (I guess I could place the palette (a glass one) as far away from me as possible, but I really don't want to work that way.) Anyway, I'm seriously considering going back to oils. If I do so, I'll try to go without a solvent or with an odorless solvent. I'm writing because I'm wondering if my experience is unusual, and I'd also like to hear any suggestions for dealing with this problem.

Foxyheart2002
04-14-2010, 07:44 PM
It's funny you should get those feeling when using acrylics. I noticed a few months ago that sometimes when I paint, my nose starts to stuff up to the point of not breathing at all. I told my husband, 'haha, I think I'm allergic to Acrylics.' We had a chuckle until the next time I used them and it did it again. I never thought of fumes because I cannot smell anything coming from them, but then again who's to say they are 'safe' without a smell?

I am allergic to some things, so the allergy is a very real possibilityfor me.

But I cannot use oils, the smell drives me up the wall. No effects from them, but I cannot stand the smell, even for 'odorless' solvents.

Chris Hargens
04-14-2010, 07:49 PM
I can smell the acrylics -- whether in gesso, medium, or paint. It's not a constant smell, but it's definitely noticeable when I lay the paint out on the palette or when I'm applying gesso to a canvas.

Imzadi
04-14-2010, 08:20 PM
When I took a Golden acrylic paints workshop, the artist did go over a lot of the health concerns. Even though acrylic paints have a label on some of the paints for being non-toxic, he said they are chemicals. People can be allergic to anything, even natural items, like peanuts, shellfish, etc.

He mentioned that while there doesn't seem to be smells that most people can detect, acrylic paints are made with formaldehyde and other chemicals that can be irritating fumes to some people.

idylbrush
04-14-2010, 09:53 PM
You might want to check with a medical professional and see if you have some allergies to the contents of acrylic paints.

I know that I am just the opposite. Oil paints and the binders close up my airways and I have a difficult time breathing. Go figure what causes these things.

dances_with_oils
04-14-2010, 10:56 PM
While you are checking with your doc about allergies, check to see if some of your paints and mediums have gone moldy. If you are at all sensitive to molds, that may be what is causing your reactions.

Nilesh
04-14-2010, 11:05 PM
It's funny you should get those feeling when using acrylics. I noticed a few months ago that sometimes when I paint, my nose starts to stuff up to the point of not breathing at all. I told my husband, 'haha, I think I'm allergic to Acrylics.' We had a chuckle until the next time I used them and it did it again. I never thought of fumes because I cannot smell anything coming from them, but then again who's to say they are 'safe' without a smell?

I am allergic to some things, so the allergy is a very real possibilityfor me.

But I cannot use oils, the smell drives me up the wall. No effects from them, but I cannot stand the smell, even for 'odorless' solvents.
Acrylics do contain various chemicals, and people's sensitivities and allergies vary quite a bit.

There are ways of increasing ventilation and decreasing exposure. Monona Rossol's book has some good suggestions,

http://www.amazon.com/Artists-Complete-Health-Safety-Guide/dp/1581152043/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1271296650&sr=1-1

If nothing is working, or you want to paint now, before getting set up with better ventilation (stronger exhaust fans and careful directions and angles, for example, so none of the vapors are reaching you), you could try another painting medium. Gouache, watercolors, casein, and some of the others have minimal fumes.

Some people really enjoy painting with gouache and casein.

Hope something there might be helpful for you.

Chris Hargens
04-14-2010, 11:10 PM
Thanks for all the help. I think I may be one of those people that is very sensitive to airborne chemicals. If that's the case, I may have to go with casein or some other media.

Imzadi
04-14-2010, 11:43 PM
You might do a test to see if it is all the acrylics paints or just certain colors. On the back labels, some have more of a toxicity warning (in the state of CA) than others do. The different colors are made of different minerals, pigments & ingredients.

There may be a possibility that you are only allergic to some colors and may be able to swap them out for similar ones that don't have the effect. Likewise, do separate tests on your mediums & gels.

Also, different companies may use different ingredients. You might be allergic to one brand but not another.

Last, maybe the dreaded <gasp> student grade or better craft paints (so maligned on WC,) may work better (or worse,) as they have more fillers and possibly less of the offending ingredients.

gopalv
04-15-2010, 04:50 AM
Strange this discussion should pop up! I've been painting for the last two years or so with acrylics and never seemed to have a problem. But recently, I started using them with mediums(Golden, Liquitex, Pebeo).

I noticed that there is a strange smell to them and after about 5 minutes of using them, my eyes start to feel like they're burning and also give me flu-like symptoms after prolonged use.

Do you use mediums with with your acrylics? These days, I make sure I take a break every 10 minutes or so when I am using mediums and also take care to have an anti-allergic before starting. Seems to work! :)

Einion
04-15-2010, 05:59 AM
I can smell the acrylics -- whether in gesso, medium, or paint. It's not a constant smell, but it's definitely noticeable when I lay the paint out on the palette or when I'm applying gesso to a canvas.
Yep, the fact that we can smell anything is a sign that there are particles or molecules of something in the air* (pretty obviously) but you're unlucky that this affects you in this way as most people don't appear to have any probs with acrylics and acrylic mediums. Acrylics are a bit of a chemical soup so there's maybe a half-dozen things you could be reacting to; or possibly a combination of two or more of them.

*If a room is painted in no-VOC paints it doesn't have that "fresh-painted" smell.

It doesn't seem to matter whether I'm painting indoors with a fan blowing air out through my garage or outdoors with a breeze flowing over the palette. (I guess I could place the palette (a glass one) as far away from me as possible, but I really don't want to work that way.)
Might be worth trying a careful control of the air direction - as I think is advised on the Gamblin site the flow of air should go past the painter and then over the palette and painting, moving on to the window, exhaust fan or whatever.

If the airflow is positive toward the palette then anything given off by the paint shouldn't have a chance to be inhaled.

However, you might want to take the cautious approach and just drop them entirely - if you become sensitised to something it can become a full-blown reaction down the line that can make you quite sick. I have a couple of friends who have become allergic to one of the chemicals in epoxy and they can't even be in the same room where it's being mixed or used without ill effects.

Anyway, I'm seriously considering going back to oils. If I do so, I'll try to go without a solvent or with an odorless solvent.
Using a good brand of 'OMS' (low-odour solvent is a better name for these) would probably be a good idea if you switch back to oil paint but you can actually paint without any solvent as long as you're okay with the necessarily modifications to method/technique.

It's best to be cautious if you're having a problem with any chemical substance but just to mention that if someone has a sensitivity to, say, the formaldehyde in some acrylics it doesn't follow that they will be sensitive to mineral spirits or turps.


You might do a test to see if it is all the acrylics paints or just certain colors. On the back labels, some have more of a toxicity warning (in the state of CA) than others do. The different colors are made of different minerals, pigments & ingredients.

There may be a possibility that you are only allergic to some colors and may be able to swap them out for similar ones that don't have the effect. Likewise, do separate tests on your mediums & gels.
The pigments should essentially be irrelevant here - it's something in the liquid components that evaporates from the paint.

I mention this specifically because of the common fears about pigment toxicity, but they don't become airborne at all in normal use so they shouldn't be a factor.

Einion

noodle1
04-15-2010, 10:13 AM
I have never had a problem with them but I have reacted to oils. It could be all that is used to create acrylics or as Bell said the paints are old. Actually really old tubes that I have do have a smell to them, I don't react but only there do I notice any odor. I would as well check out your mediums and gels, don't use them so don't know if this would be an effect or not but could just be them not the acrylics themselves. Hope you find some answers.

Elaine

purplepansey
04-15-2010, 10:40 AM
I have similar problem when I start painting with my acrylics, I start sneezing and eyes irriatated, can't believe I'm allergic to them as they have no discernable odor to them. I'm allergic to soo many things though so I guess it doesn't surprise me however, I don't have the same reaction to oils which to me should cause more allergic reactions.

Imzadi
04-15-2010, 03:19 PM
Might be worth trying a careful control of the air direction - as I think is advised on the Gamblin site the flow of air should go past the painter and then over the palette and painting, moving on to the window, exhaust fan or whatever.

If the airflow is positive toward the palette then anything given off by the paint shouldn't have a chance to be inhaled.

The Glass Art forum here at WC also have extensive info on air flow & circulation. The glass bead artists use propane & gas torches inside their homes & in enclosed rooms. They MUST make sure the air flow is properly circulating so they don't get asphyxiated from the gas.

I started to get into glass beadmaking, but could not safely regulate the air flow in the room I wanted to work in as there was only one window on one wall. Plus, I'd be freezing my butt of in the dead of winter if I had the fans flowing. Not conducive to my situation.

Essentially, as Einion said, the air has to move. ONE outtake fan isn't enough. There also needs to be an inflow fan just as strong to bring in fresh air at the same rate, and the flow has to pass by where you are working.

The Vornado turbo fans are pretty strong. You can feel the air blowing a good 20 feet into the room, standing in front of one. One for inflow & one for outflow may suffice.


The pigments should essentially be irrelevant here - it's something in the liquid components that evaporates from the paint.

I mention this specifically because of the common fears about pigment toxicity, but they don't become airborne at all in normal use so they shouldn't be a factor.

Einion

Thanks. :) My goal is to work toward teaching art again. Having accurate info that I can pass on is important for me. Some students may come in with allergies, too.

kenyart
04-15-2010, 05:41 PM
I don't seem to react to acrylics (with my asthma), but I can't use impasto medium. I begin coughing right away.

You know, they do use ammonia in the paints to keep them from getting mold, and you might be reacting to that. If some paint has not been used for quite awhile, I can smell the ammonia when I open the tube. On the palette, the smell seems to dissipate, for me at least.

Nilesh
04-15-2010, 09:12 PM
Just wanted to add that there are some good threads about gouaches, and why people like painting with them. Larry Seiler, who has been a professional artist and teacher for many years (painting mostly in oils and acrylics) recently became enamored of gouaches — he talks about it in some recent posts. JamieWG also has some good posts on what she likes about painting with them.

Something else you could try with the acrylics, if it suits you, is wearing a mask or respirator with the appropriate vapor cartridges installed.

Ammonia is in many acrylics, and it definitely evaporates into the air.

Art at M. Graham might have some information for you. He has a strong interest in artist-friendly, health-friendly paints and approaches to painting, and he has his own line of acrylics. He might be able to tell you more about what could be causing the symptoms.

Also, different companies' acrylic products have somewhat different formulations.

It seems like good advice to be cautious or play it safe. It isn't worth the potential risks to your health to push it. Aggravating the allergies, or developing more serious ones, is probably something worth avoiding.

Nilesh
04-15-2010, 09:17 PM
Here are some good threads about gouache and casein:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=391298&

http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=391186&

ladypainter
04-16-2010, 07:24 AM
I have a sensitivity to acrylics but have so many allergy issues anyway.. I find my eyes are the most bothered if I paint for any length of time and I do get stuffed up.I am also allergic to the dust in pastels and cant use traditional oils only w/s. but even they will bother me somewhat. I use color pencil without any issues but I love painting as well as drawing so have to put up with it.:wave:

ecobb
04-16-2010, 09:04 AM
"I've noticed that when I paint for more than 30 minutes I start to feel a bit woozy" That explains it. I always wondered why I like acrylics so much. I love that fresh new smell after I paint and come into the studio.

Nilesh
04-22-2010, 06:21 PM
I've just started painting again after being away from it for a long time. I was lucky enough to receive a large assortment of acrylic paints, mediums, and gels. I've noticed that when I paint for more than 30 minutes I start to feel a bit woozy and my nose and eyes feel a bit stuffy. It doesn't seem to matter whether I'm painting indoors with a fan blowing air out through my garage or outdoors with a breeze flowing over the palette. (I guess I could place the palette (a glass one) as far away from me as possible, but I really don't want to work that way.) Anyway, I'm seriously considering going back to oils. If I do so, I'll try to go without a solvent or with an odorless solvent. I'm writing because I'm wondering if my experience is unusual, and I'd also like to hear any suggestions for dealing with this problem. ...I'd also like to hear any suggestions for dealing with this problem.

Another possibility is to look into some of the other media that are available to artists.

A friend does incredible paintings with colored pencils. People who see them cannot believe they are done with colored pencils. They look like oil paintings, and sell very well for him. He is good at what he does, and it shows what can be done in this medium. There are other examples of what can be done in books like this one:

http://www.amazon.com/Best-Colored-Pencil-4/dp/1564966879/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1271971207&sr=8-1

This is a very safe medium for those with chemical sensitivities.

Soft Pastels have the dust problem, but oil pastels do not. It is amazing what some people do with oil pastels, and hard oil pastels. Here is one example, using a similar medium (artist-quality Caran d'Ache crayons):

http://www.wawro.net/gallery_home.html

You can see him at work in this video:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pvys7263DNc (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pvys7263DNc)

Here is a product description:

http://www.dickblick.com/products/caran-dache-neocolor-ii-artists-crayons/

***
You could also experiment with different angles when using an exhaust fan. I have found that having a breeze coming from the side (rather than from behind) reduces the eddies and vortices that are created when the air is coming directly from behind, and this reduces the odors and exposure levels. It is best if one's painting arm and the palette are downwind from the rest of your body. If you could arrange the ventilation so the odors are more directly removed from the room or garage, you should be able to reduce exposure levels to almost nothing. Some kind of hood system, or movable walls, screens, or dividers might give more control over the airflow.

***
There are some other media that you might also enjoy. Water-soluble colored pencils are among them. Caran d'Ache products tend to receive very good reviews.

http://www.dickblick.com/brands/caran-dache/

Some artists are fond of Cretacolor,

http://www.dickblick.com/products/cretacolor-watermedia-set/

Imzadi
04-22-2010, 07:51 PM
Be careful about cleaning your glass palette and your work area with a cleaner that has bleach in it. As bleach mixed with ammonia are a toxic combination.

The wooziness concerns me. If you have been becoming woozy because your nose is getting stuffed up and you simply aren't getting enough oxygen, you might try an allergy pill.

Many people who enter into relationships where there is an existing pet that they are allergic to, often find allergy pills like Zyrtec or Claritan are enough to do get rid of the allergy symptoms so they can keep the pets. The wooziness, on the other hand, is something else.

YLCIA
04-24-2010, 06:20 PM
I personally do not have any allergy toward acrylics but I can smell them. I do have a bad head ache from too much exposure to the turpentine though...

It maybe that you are allergic to formaldehyde . My mother had a very bad reaction to it and had to drop out of medical school due to it. She also would become very nauseated
and her eyes and nose would run and itch.

You need to ventilate the area where you store your paintings and paints on the regular bases.

Even though I am not allergic to anything in acrylics I open windows every day in the area I paint in.

ladypainter
04-25-2010, 09:05 AM
I agree that you need ventilation when you paint. I have my window open even in cool weather a crack and also have a small fan facing me sideways to blow any fumes away.That helps

idylbrush
04-25-2010, 09:42 AM
Several other options for you might be to consider getting a HEPA filter with a carbon filter added. There is also a container of granules that might be of some assistance I think it's called nox-out. It may be available through your art supply store. The container has air ways through it and what these granules do is absorb any gases or airborne chemicals. I run a filter in my studio and dehumidifier almost all the time.

Air Filter (http://www.dickblick.com/products/austin-air-health-mate-jr-air-cleaner/)

Imzadi
04-25-2010, 03:00 PM
Idylbrush, how often do you have to change the air filters? This looks like a great product.