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View Poll Results: Our pastels contain dangerous substances. How does this affect you?
I don't use pastels containing chromium, cobalt, manganese, etc. 10 6.94%
I use the pastels, but take very serious precautions: gloves, ventilator, etc. 5 3.47%
I take some reasonable precautions: I don't blow the dust, I work outside, etc. 42 29.17%
I think it's overblown; I just grab the pastels, work bare-handed, etc. 67 46.53%
I eat pastels for lunch. The cobalt is especially tasty. 20 13.89%
Voters: 144. You may not vote on this poll

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  #1   Report Bad Post  
Old 11-13-2008, 09:08 AM
learning to paint learning to paint is offline
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POLL: Awareness / Concern about Toxicity

Many of the pastels that we handle contain chromium, cobalt, cadmium, manganese and other unhealthy substances. How does this affect you?
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Old 11-13-2008, 09:34 AM
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Deborah Secor Deborah Secor is offline
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Re: POLL: Awareness / Concern about Toxicity

I've been painting in pastels since 1980 and although I know there are 'unhealthy substances' in pastels I also know that they're basically just dirt, pretty colored dirt. When I work in the garden I wash the dirt off my hands, and when I'm done I take a shower. Likewise, after playing in pastel dirt, I wash and shower.

I believe that by worrying too much about toxicity I will do more damage to my body than any pastel dirt will do. The body will run down and sooner or later cease to work at all, but in the meantime, like a well-designed machine, it's meant to be used. It always helps to keep a machine clean and well maintained, but using it makes it dirty--and that's not only expected but functionally necessary. So I don't worry, but I keep it clean...

I tell anyone who's deeply concerned about toxicity in pastels and finds that worrying distracts them too much that it's not going to be worth it. I suggest they use another medium that comforts them more or take up digital art. Pastels are not for everyone. You really have more fun with this medium if you always liked playing in the dirt!

Deborah
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Last edited by Deborah Secor : 11-13-2008 at 10:24 AM.
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Old 11-13-2008, 10:14 AM
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westcoast_Mike westcoast_Mike is offline
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Re: POLL: Awareness / Concern about Toxicity

Inhaling excessive amounts of dust, of any kind, can lead to health problems. That said, I work on sanded paper in an upright position. Doing so, dust is a minimal problem. Being aware of the issue and avoiding stirring it up excessively and I don't feel it's too much of an issue for most people.
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Old 11-13-2008, 10:30 AM
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ElsieH ElsieH is offline
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Smile Re: POLL: Awareness / Concern about Toxicity



In our modern society, daily we are in contact with harmful substances everywhere we turn. From holding the nozzle and breathing the fumes at the gas station as we fill our cars with gass that will add particulars to the atmosphere....to drinking water from a plastic bottle.

As a teacher for 43 years in an elementary classroom, I had to either adopt reasonable measures to keep the students and my self healthy or leave education. You just cleanup as best you can, handle materials as safely as is practical, keep fresh air (just how fresh is fresh air?) moving, wash you hands, be careful where you eat, etc. and "get on with life".

Having a recent issue with a lung infection, made we aware that reasonable care is necessary. But, I'll not overly restrict my life as a person or as an artist.

Get Dusty! Paint up a storm! Wash you hands. Clean up after yourself.
Stop blowing the dust around. Open a window when you can.
I have a choice to sit in a chair, thinking I'm safer, or living life as fully as I can! BTW: Sitting "safely" in a chair, causes blood clots in you legs!
I intend to paint the rest of my life in pastel and watercolor.
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Old 11-13-2008, 12:22 PM
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Re: POLL: Awareness / Concern about Toxicity

I do what's in reach and keep it in the back of my mind, especially when working with my Senneliers and Rembrandts. I work small, and that helps. I clean up every time I do, and always keep a wet or damp towel handy to keep cleaning continuously both self and surfaces around me since I can't work outside any more.

We're getting a HEPA filter air cleaner and my son in law is going to chop one of those unglazed interior windows between my room and the living room. This is partly to help keep the smoke down (both my daughter and I smoke) but it'll also help a lot with the pastel dust.

Till then I just try to be careful as I can. I'm slowly training myself into the habit of snapping rather than blowing on pastels to get rid of the dust. I do one thing at a time toward changing my habits.

If I worked big like the murals lady, I would probably go for gloves and respirator and the whole nine yards. She probably generated enough dust to make a whole box of soft mixed-color grays.
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Old 11-13-2008, 03:51 PM
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Re: POLL: Awareness / Concern about Toxicity

If I remember correctly, Rembrandts are free of them. Now, with Unisons, I use a surgical mask. Since I've got astma I know I have to avoid inhaling any dust I can reasonably avoid. I use it of I dust the house too. (Operative word: if...)

Buffer cream on my hands. No touching of eyes, mouth, or nose before washing hands. No blowing. And wiping off dust in work-area after every painting.

I'd like some kind of ventilator, if that is a machine with a filter, but again, that is mainly because I don't want to breathe any particles, including dust and pollen. (I should move to Gotthob on Greenland...)

I totally avoid the velour paper I can get here, as it is so springy it sends the finest dust a foot out or up in the air.

Otherwise, nah... the quantities of toxic stuff are so small. I believe it is more dangerous to go downtown in rush-hour. But, I *am* sensitive, so I take reasonable precautions.

Charlie
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Old 11-14-2008, 08:54 AM
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Re: POLL: Awareness / Concern about Toxicity

Although wearing a dust mask takes getting used to, I did get used to it, and consider it a reasonable precaution. I make sure I do not work near the kitchen and do not eat or drink while working. For those concerned with heavy metal toxicity, there are many brands that do not contain heavy metals. Although one never knows if the companies are complying with the ASTM labeling guidelines, Dick Blick's website lets you know which pastels have toxic labels. Giraults, according to their brochure (and translated from French) contain no heavy metals. Mt. Visions also contain no heavy metals or toxic materials.

Don
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Old 11-14-2008, 10:02 AM
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Kathryn Wilson Kathryn Wilson is offline
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Re: POLL: Awareness / Concern about Toxicity

I voted "overblown" - but I take precautions about not eating while painting, wash up frequently and don't blow the dust around. Reasonable precaution, but not overly worried about it.
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Old 11-14-2008, 10:46 AM
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Re: POLL: Awareness / Concern about Toxicity

I use barrier cream, and a mask when the dust gets going. it depends on what I'm doing. If I'm using a brush to brush off some of the painting then I wear the mask etc. I use masking tape to catch a lot of the dust and then I also use an aluminum foil tray under the painting and it is upright too. I don't worry too much about it, but I do have some serious health issues, so don't want to add to them significantly. I do intend on getting a hepa filter air filter to use next to the easel, but won't be getting that for quite awhile.

Sara
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Old 11-15-2008, 12:22 AM
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Re: POLL: Awareness / Concern about Toxicity

I think the biggest hazard is inhaling. But it's difficult to hold your breath for an entire painting.
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Old 11-15-2008, 02:00 AM
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Re: POLL: Awareness / Concern about Toxicity

I'm terribly concerned about where I stand in relationship to the wind's direction when I'm putting gas in my van, and I hold my breath when I use my hairspray (bless it's heart!!!) and then I leave the bathroom promptly!!! And I can't stand wearing gloves, tho several of the artists who study with me do use gloves. I spray my fixative outdoors unless it's horridly cold----and then I hold my breath, and spray next to my HEPA filter fans (two stacked on top of each other.) I make sure the cats are out of the room first, by the way.

I do happen to use a brand of pastel for 75% to 80% of my work that is certified by the official standards testers (located in Boston) free of toxins---but more cuz I LOVE them than because of their safety---but---I do admit that I am sooo thankful that they are not toxic!!!!!!! (Art Spectrum brand, which are very heavily pigmented.)

I have about 4700 different sticks of pastels from 25 different brands---well, 26 with the full set of PanPastel. One of my several other favorite brands includes Terry Ludwigs and Unisons, Mt. Visions and Diane Townsends. The Unisons are made of Cadmiums and other toxic pigments (in part) but are also lush! But if we are not blowing constantly, snarffing all manner of food and drink right at the easel with pigmented hands, while we madly paint in ways that get the pigments ever-so airborne----we are most likely all right!

Going balistic insane over any tiny bit of possibly toxic pigment---while eating every bit of fat in sight and never exercising and passing on every green veggie that comes along---or just ignoring even choosing them---is probably the greater danger. Sniffing hairspray---or fixative---or a few other things that are not prime health choices are much more dangerous than not wearing gloves. Gloves are great for those who don't use really good moisturizing creams nor drink enough water. Of course---drinking plently of water is the first choice. Nice hand creams help a LOT!!! (0ver the years of pastel painting, I've pretty well figured that one out!) (Those two out, I should say!!!)

I agree that airborne is probably the greatest concern, other than hand cosmetic/comfort issues. Don't blow!!! Don't use a brush to dislodge pastel from your painting. If the atmosphere is tremendously dry, spray a bit of water into the air or use a humidifier. The pigment sinks out of nostril range when the atmosphere is damper! Really!

You don't have to be a frantic, frightened being using pastel. But it's nice not to be a totally blase nut!!! Pay attention---but to the things that truly matter the most.

The Cadmium pigments, as used in Unisons, for example, are larger 'bits' and can not soak into our regular skin---but if you have a cut---you do want to keep it well covered! Really! Yes.

You don't need to be setting up situations where you can be eating or drinking the pigment that DOES float over from the easel to nearby areas where an lovely sandwich or cheese and crackers may be sitting---or a soda, etc. Be realistic---not paranoid! There IS a difference!

Pay attention.

What could it hurt!

The moments you save in paying attention---and making a few simple wise choices could save you weeks+ in the hospital---not to mention saving you time to paint, your comfort and that $$$ 'stuff.' What ever guides your decision-making---simply making wise choices will give you soo much more painting time, more fun and more expression, time for those lovely things and time for it to happen. Very best wishes! Donna ;-}
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Old 11-15-2008, 12:31 PM
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Re: POLL: Awareness / Concern about Toxicity

Quote:
Originally Posted by Donna A
I agree that airborne is probably the greatest concern, other than hand cosmetic/comfort issues. Don't blow!!! Don't use a brush to dislodge pastel from your painting. If the atmosphere is tremendously dry, spray a bit of water into the air or use a humidifier. The pigment sinks out of nostril range when the atmosphere is damper! Really! Donna ;-}

Thank you, Donna, I hadn't thought of this and I'm in a dry climate.
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Old 11-16-2008, 03:55 PM
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Re: POLL: Awareness / Concern about Toxicity

I'm new to pastels and I'm a bit of a nut about such stuff as using only natural cleaning products in the house, eating natural and organic foods, etc.

I want to get a set of pastels that do not have toxins and saw on Blick site that Senns are shown as AP. I am leanings towards getting a set of Senns. Also might try Rembrandt.

I do have a set of 8 Unison that I purchased before I read the label . . . I use those only outside on the patio
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Old 11-17-2008, 02:14 AM
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Re: POLL: Awareness / Concern about Toxicity

Hi,
I have just begun posting here, taking Colorix's class, although I have lurked for a long time, and wanted to get into pastels. First, I agree with Charlie's level of caution, but I arrive at it from different experience.

My wife began, with friends, her own 'mineral makeup' company a couple of years ago, and has been building the business, step by step. The mineral makeups are, indeed, powdered pigments. These are only FDA-approved, meaning they can be eaten. [Commonly used when forming gelatin into colored capsules for medication, for instance.] So no 'toxicity' in the limited set of pigments at all. My wife has been in health-care a long time and takes great care to do no harm to others.

This does not mean there are not problems. Of course, the limited amount applied to the face is not a problem, done once or twice a day. But she has to blend powdered colors to create arrays of foundations, blushes, etc. and package them. So she is exposed to a LOT of dust. Far more than a pastellist, but with NONE of the chemical toxicity. Yet, enough of it IS toxic. That 'toxicity' label means 'chemically inert'. Chemical interaction is not the only reason something can hurt you.

'Toxicity' does not just occur because of chemistry. In the lungs it also occurs because of size and geometry of particles. Remember the asbestos fiasco? A very inert chemical, with fibrous particles that are very dangerous from their needle-like shapes. Everyone thought it was safe, until we realized that it was the geometry of the particle that matters. My wife wears masks when blending and goes to great lengths to keep cleaning the air in the blending room. Serious multi-level filtration is required.

I am also investing in masks, although as I have only done a handful of pastel studies so far, and I am not yet using the dustiest of pastels, I just clean down surfaces with a damp rag. Soon, I will buy another air filter system like we use in our bedroom, and keep it on in this room.

But if you are painting much of the day, many days of the week, indoors, and/or perhaps have students with you also doing so, please invest in serious HEPA filtration systems, and be very aware of the environment you are creating. Such a system does not have to be extensive or expensive. If it is just one person, a general good air purification unit, close to the easel should be fine. Just wear a mask and keep clearing the air. And keep it on for an hour or so after you stop for the day. If you are doing a lot of work, and have students, then investigate, and invest in a serious system that can exchange the whole room's air in less than an hour, and can capture particles down to very fine levels.

Remember also that it is not the same as clearing solvent vapors from the air. Opening the window provides a larger space for the diffusion of vapors, so that their 'partial pressure' in the local atmosphere will decrease rapidly. Material particles are drifting about in 'Brownian motion' randomly. Unless you are deliberately running a blower, pushing air out one 'hole in the wall' while allowing clean air in another, to the room, just opening a window will not help. I think investing in a simple HEPA air filtration system is just plain necessary.

I am no expert, but I have become aware that a good deal of research has been done in regard to the pigments used in mineral makeup, and much effort to be certain that the particle size does not become too small. Much testing is being done to be sure the particle geometries are not harmful. I have not heard there is ANY such research on what particle size may be produced from a dry pastel, and I would suspect that the expense of full testing would be too great for the manufacturers. The big insurers behind the cosmetics industry can afford the research, but the artists-supply industry is small.

So be safe and protect your lungs. Don't be fearful, just be prudent.

Mark
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Old 11-17-2008, 06:57 AM
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Re: POLL: Awareness / Concern about Toxicity

Quote:
Originally Posted by MarkJBrader
... and much effort to be certain that the particle size does not become too small. ... Mark

Good idea on the cosmetics side. I do think that the dust we see falling down from a painting isn't the greatest problem. Sure, it gets everywhere, but it is heavy enough -- particles are large enough -- to fall down. But then there is the very fine dust that is hardly visible, which remains airborne for quite a while. I saw some of this very fine light dust being thrown into the air by the springy fibres of velour. I had a strong light coming from the side, with something dark behind the painting, and happened to see this from just the right angle so I saw the lit dust hovering and swirling like smoke! That is what I wear a surgical mask against, and want a filter system for taking care of! (And no velour!)
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