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Safe and Healthy Spaces


Work-related health problems can be a serious concern for artists. Hazardous conditions and materials found in many industrial workplaces can also be found in many art workspaces. When hazards are identified in an industrial workplace, safety training and information may be required -- but these resources are less often available to artists who work alone or in small groups. Lack of awareness of these hazards, combined with poor access to safety information, training, and protective equipment, can make an art workplace especially dangerous.

Other factors can also make art spaces hazardous. Artists may work or practice for extended periods of time, often far beyond the usual work day or work week hours. This can be especially dangerous if they work in hazardous settings or in close contact with hazardous materials. Even if health and safety precautions are usually followed, artists might focus on preparing for a show to the detriment of their health and safety.

Although many art-related hazards may not appear especially dangerous at first, they can lead to serious health problems that can affect an artist's life and ability to work. Painters can develop neurological and other disorders from long-term solvent exposure. Musicians can develop permanent hearing loss from exposure to loud music, even in acoustic settings. Pottery artists may find that they are unable to continue work at the wheel because of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or other hand-wrist problems from extended work schedules. These work-related disorders can disable visual and performing artists during their most productive years, when work activities and the associated exposures may be at their peak.

Work-related disorders and injuries in the arts are preventable. This chapter focuses on ways to eliminate or reduce hazards in your art practices and workplace. Information provided here is meant to be general in nature. However, your art-related activities and setting are likely to have some unique safety issues, so explore this chapter's Resource section to research ways to ensure your work is free of recognized hazards.

Safety in Art Workspaces

Regardless of the kind of work you do, or materials you use, common safety concerns to address in all art workspaces include:

  • Electrical Supply : Must adequately meet work requirements. Overloading electrical circuits is a hazard that can lead to fire or electrocution. All lights and other powered equipment should be properly grounded. Install ground fault circuit interrupters (for AC) when using powered equipment within six feet of potential water spillage areas. All electrical work and wiring should be completed by a licensed electrician. In addition, wiring must meet the requirements of the local building code and National Electrical Code in order to avoid electrical hazards.

  • Running Water : Sufficient water supply must be available for routine clean-up after work, for decontaminating the skin or eyes after accidental contact with hazardous materials, and for use in emergency spills.

  • Ventilation : Adequate and consistent amounts of fresh air are necessary for any workspace, especially for those art practices that produce fumes, dusts or other toxic materials that could be inhaled. Such practices include printmaking, painting, metalworking, foundry, photography, jewelry making, welding, and woodworking. Work areas, such as basements and attics, with limited access to fresh air might pose greater hazards. Ventilation is discussed in more detail later in this section.

  • Pollution : If your work produces toxic gases, fumes, dusts or other materials that can be transported to other parts of the building, you need to ensure that these pollutants are removed from the air and vented safely above the roof of the building. These materials should not be released near anyone's windows, doors or air intakes.

  • Lighting : Lighting is necessary in the workspace to adequately light the workspace to prevent vision problems, to ensure that hazards and emergency conditions are easily visible and to accurately render the art work in color quality and shade and shadow. Accurately installed and used lighting is also especially important for performing arts spaces.

  • Heating : Good exhaust ventilation of a studio's contaminated air can require additional heating capacity. While it may be tempting to use portable space heaters for these purposes, these heaters can be fire hazards, especially if you work with flammable materials such as solvents or wood dust. In addition, some portable space heaters can produce carbon monoxide or other hazardous byproducts, if not properly maintained. Your existing heating system may have the capacity to heat the additional air needed. If not, heating professionals may be needed to calculate your additional heating needs and advise you about options for adding heating capacity.

  • Emergency Drills : Although frequently disregarded, regular emergency exit drills are essential. Familiar tasks can quickly become difficult in an emergency situation. When developing a plan, eliminate or adapt tasks that require you to use keys or clear space before you are able to exit. All tenants, including household members in live/work spaces, should regularly participate in these exit drills.

Safety Surveys

A Safety Survey conducted by an experienced safety professional is one way to spot and address safety issues such as guardrail placement, machine safety, noise levels, ergonomic concerns and other hazards that might have escaped detection. Early elimination of these hazards can prevent a lifetime of avoidable health problems and lost productivity.

You can obtain a safety survey from one of these sources:

  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration: OSHA provides free consultative services in every state.

  • Insurance Company Loss Control Programs : Many insurance companies will conduct a safety survey of your space upon request. These surveys will usually only highlight major hazards, and might not address specific risks associated with art materials and processes. However, many insurance professionals, especially those in specialized industries, are usually familiar with a wide array of resources for evaluating work processes and materials. Prepare and discuss with them the specific processes and materials that you use in your studio -- especially if other artists work in your building.

  • Private Industrial Hygiene or Safety Consultants : This service can be expensive, but is especially useful if you run a business or facility where multiple art uses occur and/or are utilized by many people. The American Industrial Hygiene Association and the American Society of Safety Engineers have lists of consultants available in each state.

Emergency Plans

Emergency planning is typically associated with larger workspaces and public venues. However, smaller art workspaces and live/work spaces can also produce many of the same emergency conditions. Whether the area is large or small, proper workspace safety requires an organized program that includes regular inspections, hazard evaluation and control measures, emergency planning, education, and training. 

When developing a plan, remember that fire is not the only emergency that can occur in your space. Natural disasters, electrical failure, chemical spills (such as large solvent spills), release of toxic fumes or gases, chemical contamination, and medical emergencies (i.e. injuries, heart attacks, etc.), all require emergency planning. You need to be able to safely stop any process, no matter how complex or sensitive, and prepare to evacuate the building or seek help quickly. Failure to have pre-planned emergency procedures could result in an even greater emergency.

Your emergency plan should include at least the following:

  • Emergency escape procedures and routes.

  • Procedures for shutting down critical processes before evacuation. All shutdown procedures must emphasize speed and safety. For example, solvent-containing materials must be quickly placed in flammable storage cabinets or solvent waste disposal cans.

  • Procedures to account for all occupants after the emergency evacuation. For example, do you all meet by the tree in the front yard? The café down the street?

  • Rescue and medical duties for those who can perform them.

  • A method for reporting and documenting fires and other emergencies.

Emergency Equipment

In Seattle, most safety equipment can be bought at a safety supply house such as Safety and Supply Company - A safe workspace should have the following equipment easily accessible:

Fire Extinguishers
Fires are still the leading cause of injuries and deaths in homes and workspaces. Fire extinguishers should be easily accessible to each workstation where flammable materials or equipment are used or stored.

Select extinguishers based on the type of fire hazards likely to occur in your space. Using the wrong extinguisher can actually spread the fire and/or endanger the user.

The U.S. National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) classifies fires into four general categories:

  • Class A fires involve ordinary materials such as burning paper, lumber, cardboard, and most plastics.

  • Class B fires involve flammable or combustible liquids such as gasoline, kerosene, grease, oil and common organic solvents used in the studio.

  • Class C fires involve electrical equipment such as appliances, switches, panel boxes, power tools, hot plates and certain kilns. Water is usually a dangerous extinguishing medium for Class C fires because of the risk of electrical shock.

  • Class D fires involve combustible metals, such as magnesium (found in some pigments), titanium (used in some pigments, jewelry and metal coating), potassium and sodium (also pyrophoric organometallic reagents such as alkyl lithiums, Grignard agents and diethylzinc). Handle these fires with extreme care! These materials burn at high temperatures and will react violently with water, air, and/or other chemicals. Be sure to consult with fire professionals about appropriate precautions and emergency actions for these fires.

The most common types of extinguishers available include:

  • Water Extinguishers : Also known as APW extinguishers (air-pressurized water), these are suitable for Class A fires only. Never use these extinguishers on grease fires, as they might spread the fire rather than extinguish it. Water extinguishers should not be used on Class D fires, because the burning material might react violently with water. In addition, water extinguishers should not be used on electrical fires because of the risk of electrical shock.

  • Carbon Dioxide Extinguishers (CO2) : Suitable for Class B and C fires and/or a combination of fire types. They contain CO2 gas that is highly pressurized and when applied, it works by depriving the fire of oxygen. Carbon Dioxide extinguishers have an advantage over chemical extinguishers because they do not leave behind a residue on the extinguished materials.

  • Dry Chemical Extinguishers : Usually suitable for Class A, B and C fires and/or a combination of fire types. They are filled with a chemical foam or powder that is pressurized with nitrogen, and leave a non-flammable substance on the extinguished materials (CO2 extinguishers do not).
    Dry chemical extinguishers come in two common forms.

  • ABC Extinguisher: A multi-purpose extinguisher filled with mono-ammonium phosphate, a yellow powder that leaves a sticky residue (which may be damaging to electrical supplies).

  • BC Extinguisher: Filled with sodium bicarbonate or potassium bicarbonate, and leaves a slightly corrosive residue.

Your space might present the potential for a variety of fires. Be sure that the appropriate precautions and extinguishers are available for each application. In some cases, you might need to investigate extinguishers created for specialized uses.

Combustible Storage
Oily rags, paint rags, oily waste, solvents and similar materials subject to spontaneous combustion should be kept in approved waste cans and emptied regularly. Small amounts of solvents or solvent-containing materials (less than a pint) can be evaporated if other and better alternatives are not available. Evaporation should take place either outdoors or inside a local exhaust hood where no one will be exposed to the solvent vapors. Combustible materials should always be stored away from exits and equipment using heat or flames.

Sprinkler System
Sprinkler systems were once expensive and unusual in small art studios. However, new systems, using flexible tubing that tie directly into the space's water supply, have made sprinkler systems more affordable and easy to maintain. If your work involves a lot of combustible materials, heat or fire sources, seriously consider installing a sprinkler system.

Emergency Alarms, Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
All tenants should be able to detect emergency alarms at all times and locations. Special systems should be installed for occupants with hearing or visual impairments. Smoke detectors should be installed throughout the space, particularly near areas where flammable materials are used or stored. Install carbon monoxide detectors if the heating system is old or consistently turned up to provide additional heat and ventilation. CO2 detectors should also be near all portable gas space heaters, as well as combustion-generating equipment such as welders.

Emergency Eyewash and Shower
Most studios must have a way to irrigate the eyes with clean, cool water for at least 15 minutes after a hazardous material (liquid or solid) has come into contact with the eye. In many cases, it is also important to have instant access to shower or wash facilities for chemicals spilled on the skin. Portable eye wash kits can be purchased for first aid needs, but any facility with eye or skin hazards should have at least a sink with flowing water that can be accessed in an emergency by a victim with limited or no vision.

First Aid Supplies and Training
First aid kits should only contain materials to aid injured persons until they can be transported for emergency care. These kits should be large enough to accommodate the number of users in the space, and should only include items such as clean bandage material large enough for compression of bleeding, tourniquets and other materials that tenants have been trained to use. Inappropriate use of tourniquets and other first aid materials can be harmful. Small bandages and other supplies needed for routine minor injuries should be stored in a separate area so that the first aid kit remains fully stocked for emergencies.

The American Red Cross regularly offers first aid courses. Build first aid kits that are specifically suited to the types of injuries that could occur in the space: i.e., chemical burns from acids, serious lacerations from saws, etc..

Poisonings and Toxic Emergencies
Contact information for the Washington State Poison Control 1-800- 222- 1222 a physician, emergency room, fire and police departments should be prominently displayed on the outside of the first aid kit and near each phone.


Proper ventilation is key in lowering the concentration of airborne materials dangerous to inhale. Ventilation can also prevent the build-up of flammable work materials in the air, which could lead to a fire or explosion.

Unfortunately, common residential heating, ventilation, air-conditioning (HVAC) systems are not designed to exhaust the airborne toxic chemicals, gases, vapors and dusts produced by many art processes. Residential HVAC systems usually re-circulate most of the air inside a space, and exhaust only a small portion outside. While re-circulating interior air helps prevent costly heating and cooling of fresh air from the outside, it also re-circulates any hazardous contaminants in that air. If the air is re-circulated to other parts of the building, these hazardous materials can also be dispersed to distant parts of a building and harm people.

Installing proper workplace ventilation in an existing facility is often much more expensive than installing ventilation when the building is first built or renovated. If possible, ensure that proper ventilation is mapped out and installed from the beginning. If you are moving into a space with existing ventilation, be prepared to improve or maintain this system and absorb the cost. Remember that this cost has a long-term benefit - your health.


For projects that require an extensive ventilation system, hire a ventilation engineer experienced and trained in industrial ventilation. Input from both parties is required to design an effective system; you might not know which types of ventilation systems are appropriate, and the engineer might not be familiar with the chemicals and processes you are using.

A common problem with designing ventilation systems for art spaces is pinpointing where hazardous activities might occur. Use of toxic materials should be limited to specific areas and fixed workstations to promote efficiency and economy. For example, if you are designing a printmaking studio that specializes in etching, it would be impractical to install slot hoods in every work area; rather, plan the space to restrict use of acids and other etching materials to certain locations.

Your workspace's hours of operation are also important. If your space is only open at certain times of the day, the ventilation system can usually be shut down during off-hours. If you are designing a space that will have multiple uses, make sure everyone understands how to operate the ventilation system.

There are two types of ventilation systems used for hazardous substances: dilution ventilation and local exhaust ventilation. Dilution ventilation involves bringing in clean air from outside the workspace to dilute contaminated air. The contaminated air is then pushed to the outside, usually with exhaust fans. Local exhaust ventilation traps the contaminants near their source in the work area before they become more widely airborne, and then expels them into the outside air.

The rest of this section discusses the ins and outs of dilution and local exhaust ventilation, and how to Dilution Ventilation.

Classic examples of dilution ventilation are windows with exhaust fans (used to remove contaminated air) and open windows that provides fresh outside air. In an arts workplace that produces air contaminants, the exhaust fan should expel contaminated air from the space, pulling it outside. Locate the exhaust far enough away from all air sources so that you do not re-circulate contaminated air or endanger someone else's air source.

Dilution ventilation should not be used where large amounts or highly toxic air contaminants are being generated. It is difficult to consistently provide large volumes of uncontaminated air with this system, and to calculate the amount of fresh air required to replace the contaminated air.

If you use this system, work with an industrial hygiene and ventilation expert who can calculate how much makeup air is necessary. Do not rely on your sense of smell as a guide to the effectiveness of the ventilation. Many toxic substances are not detectable at low levels, yet are very harmful.

Checking a Dilution Ventilation System
For a full evaluation of your ventilation system, consult with a ventilation engineer who will use airflow instruments and smoke tubes to track and measure the flow of air, and ensure that design specifications are met and that the system works properly. These tests should be part of your normal maintenance schedule.

Questions to ask to ensure your system works:

  • Is makeup air adequate? There must be sufficient fresh air from outside ("makeup air") to replace the air being exhausted. Insufficient makeup air weakens the performance of the exhaust system. This can be difficult to detect, and you will need to work with a professional to get an accurate assessment. If the air quality in the room is poor, the air is hazy, or the contaminants are not being adequately flushed out, makeup air might be insufficient.

  • Is the makeup air source positioned properly? If the makeup air source is located too close to the exhaust outlet of a dilution ventilation system, the makeup air can be drawn directly into the exhaust duct and will mix with contaminated air in the room.

  • Are the contaminants being drawn away from your face? Make sure that clean air enters the room, passes your face, mixes with contaminants and immediately exhausts them out of the space. A professional smoke tube indicates the direction of the airflow. In place of a smoke tube, you can substitute an inexpensive child's soap bubble-making kit. Watch the direction the bubbles move to see how air flow occurs in the space.

  • Are obstructions interfering with airflow? Ventilation can become compromised if the airflow is blocked. For example, a vertical easel can easily block fans or exhaust systems. Carefully position the makeup air source, exhaust fans and your work tools (such as an easel) to prevent interference.

  • Is the fan connected properly? Connecting propeller fans in the wrong direction will cause air to blow into the room instead of being exhausted. This is easily detected using the soap bubbles.

  • Is the exhaust air being re-circulated? Recirculation of exhaust air means that the toxic contaminants are also being circulated back into the space. Soap bubbles can be used to follow the path of exhausted air and direct them away from fresh air intakes.

By following these simple tests and guidelines, you can help ensure that your ventilation system is working. In addition, check the Resource section of this chapter for recommended books and organizations that also might address your ventilation concerns. maintain these systems.

Local Exhaust Ventilation

A local exhaust ventilation system usually consists of a hood to capture contaminants, a system of ducts, and an exhaust fan to transport impurities outside. Air cleaners can also remove harmful types of dust or particulates from the air. If done appropriately, the cleaned air can often be re-circulated, saving money on heating and cooling.

Hood types for local exhaust ventilation systems vary in design, depending on specific use. Canopy hoods are used over electric kilns where heated contaminants often rise. Slot exhaust hoods are used for cleaning etching plates where contaminants can be captured at the workbench. Enclosed hoods are often used for acids that are dangerous to nearby users and materials. Spray booths are used for spraying paint and glazes, as these contaminants can easily float in the air to distant sites. Movable exhaust hoods are used for welding at multiple sites. Sawdust-collecting hoods are designed for woodshops. Many art practices can use either a slot exhaust hood or an enclosed hood to capture hazardous materials and eliminate them from the air supply.

Basic rules for operating local exhaust systems:

  • Provide enough clean air to replace exhausted air.

  • Enclose the process as much as possible to ensure effective capture of contaminants.

  • Place the hood as close to the toxin-producing activity as possible.

  • Have as few bends in the ductwork system as possible. Make sure the bends are gradual, not sharp.

  • Locate fans outside the room so that all ducts are under negative pressure (like a vacuum), which draws air and contaminants into the exhaust system, and removes them to the outside.

  • Do not re-circulate any of the exhausted air, unless you are using a dust collection system designed for recirculation.

  • Make sure exhausted air cannot reenter the room or the intake vents for other air systems.

  • Schedule regular maintenance.

  • When exhausting solvents or other flammable materials, use spark-proof (aluminum) fan blades and place fan motors outside the airflow stream so that sparks from the motor do not ignite the flammables.

Checking a Local Exhaust System
A local exhaust system, such as a spray booth or slot hood, should capture the contaminants before they get into the air that you breathe. If you can smell gases or vapors, or see contaminant dusts or mists floating in the air or settling on surfaces, the hood is not working properly.

You can also use commercial-grade smoke tubes to generate a haze that will help you see the direction of airflow in a room. A less expensive alternative is a child's soap bubble kit. A properly working system will draw the bubbles (or smoke) steadily into the hood. If bubbles pass your face while you are in a working position, the toxic contaminants are being pulled into your breathing zone, where you can inhale them.

If tests indicate that the local exhaust ventilation system is not working correctly, then look for these common problems:

  • Is there adequate makeup air? One of the most common problems with local exhaust systems is insufficient fresh air from outside ("makeup air") to replace the air being exhausted. Insufficient makeup air weakens the performance of the exhaust system.

  • Is the makeup air source positioned properly? Placing the makeup air source too close to the local exhaust hood can create turbulence and/or blow contaminants out of the hood and by your face. Use soap bubbles or smoke to detect turbulence.

  • Are there cross-currents? Local exhaust hoods are often very sensitive to cross-currents caused by heavy traffic around the hood, nearby air conditioners, doorways that are opened or closed, etc. Check the movement of the bubbles or smoke to ensure they flow into the hood in common work conditions.

  • Is the activity adequately enclosed? A hood generally performs more effectively when it more completely encloses a work process.

  • Is the exhaust air being re-circulated? Re-circulation of exhaust air means that hazardous contaminants are being dispersed back into the space. Again, soap bubbles can be used to follow the path of exhausted air away from the fresh air intakes.

Following these simple tests and guidelines can help you ensure that your ventilation system is working properly. Check the Resource section of this chapter for recommended books and organizations that can also assist in addressing your ventilation concerns. In addition, for a full evaluation of your ventilation system, it is best to consult with a ventilation engineer.

Know Your Materials

Hazardous materials, including art products, can harm your health in many ways. Some hazardous materials can affect body surfaces on contact, or be absorbed by the body through inhalation, ingestion (swallowing) or absorption through the skin. Become familiar with the materials you work with, and how they might affect and enter your body.

  • Skin and Eye Hazards : Some substances that come into contact with the skin and eyes can cause allergic reactions, skin rashes, itching, burning, redness, swelling and surface deterioration that can be severe or even life-threatening. Contact with the eyes may also produce itching, burning, redness and tearing. The eyes are particularly vulnerable to these contact injuries because the cornea -- the delicate layer of tissue over the front of the eye -- is important for vision. Damage to the cornea from direct contact with irritating substances such as cleaning agents, solvents, acids or alkalis can, if not treated properly, affect vision permanently.

  • Some hazardous materials can also be absorbed through the skin into the blood stream and affect organs. These materials usually pass more easily through scrapes, cuts or rashes. Such materials may also be absorbed though the eyes.

  • Ingestion Hazards (Swallowed): Some materials may be absorbed through the gastrointestinal system (mouth, stomach and intestines) and cause serious health problems in other parts of the body. Lead dust in stained glass work, for example, may contaminate the fingers and then be carried to the lips and swallowed if the dust is not washed off thoroughly. This swallowed lead can be absorbed and, over time, harm the brain, kidneys and other tissues.

  • Inhaled Hazards: The respiratory system (mouth, nose, throat and lungs) is especially vulnerable to direct injury from hazardous materials. Materials that directly affect the respiratory system may trigger coughing, sneezing, gasping, wheezing, shortness of breath and other symptoms. These effects are familiar to anyone who as entered a smoke-filled room.

  • Some materials can also enter the body through the respiratory system. Breathing vapors of mineral spirits or other solvents, for example, may irritate the respiratory system, but it can also be absorbed through the lungs into the bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream, these substances can be transported to the brain, where they can cause lightheadedness, confusion and other symptoms. Over time, with repeated absorptions, some solvents can permanently affect the brain and other organs.

Hazardous Ingredients

Product labels can help you to identify potentially hazardous ingredients in your art materials. However, labels usually only identify active ingredients: substances important to the product's function. In some cases, ingredients that can cause health problems may be among the fillers, fragrances, preservatives and other chemicals that are not involved in the product's function, and therefore not listed.

Labels can also be misleading. A loophole in federal regulations allows some art materials to be labeled as non-toxic when, in fact, their hazardous properties and health effects remain unknown. Fortunately, safety information is becoming increasingly available from other reliable sources, including the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), the Washington State Poison Control  and national health and safety information centers such as OSHA.

Health Labeling for Art Materials
In 1988, the Labeling of Hazardous Art Materials Act was signed into law, requiring all art materials to be reviewed to determine their potential for chronic health hazards, and labeled to warn of materials posing chronic health hazards. Unfortunately, this regulation does not require manufacturers to conduct testing of materials. Under-tested art products might be labeled non-toxic.

Art materials that require labeling include:

  • Products that actually become a component of the work of art, such as paint, canvas, ink, crayons, chalk, solder, brazing rods, flux, paper, clay, stone, thread, cloth, and photographic film.

  • Products that are closely and intimately associated with the creation of the final work of art, such as brush cleaners, solvents, ceramic kilns, brushes, silk screens, molds, mold-making material, and photo-developing chemicals.

Some tools, implements and furniture used to create a work of art, but do not become part of the piece, are not covered by this law.

For additional information on the labeling requirements for art materials, contact the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The Washington State Poison Control Center is an important resource for information on the hazards of materials and products, and on working safely with these materials. In addition to responding to poison emergencies, the Center answers consumers' questions about the hazards and use of materials in the home or workplace. The Center can often access information on substances commonly added to "active ingredients" in many products.

Material Safety Data Sheets
One of the most common sources for health and safety information about a hazardous product is the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), which provides information on the product's chemical composition, uses, hazards, and disposal, among other things. Manufacturers are required to prepare a MSDS for each of the hazardous products they produce, though some MSDSs may contain inaccuracies.

Government agencies that provide independent assessments of hazardous substances include:

Review the next section, Material Safety Data Sheets, for additional information.

Material Safety Data Sheets

Manufacturers, importers and distributors of hazardous products must provide commercial customers with a Material Safety and Data Sheet (MSDS), in English, upon first purchase of a hazardous product, as well as whenever the MSDS changes. The MSDS provides information on the product's chemical composition, uses, hazards, and disposal, among other things.

Although MSDSs are not required for non-hazardous products, many manufacturers will provide them with a statement indicating the product is non-hazardous. The law does not require manufacturers to provide a MSDS to artists, but most responsible producers will provide them to all of their customers.

While the format of the MSDS may change from producer to producer, all MSDSs must include the following information and sections:

The product identity should be the same as the name found on the product label.

Section I
This section must include the name, address, and telephone number of the chemical manufacturer or party responsible for providing information about a product's hazards and hazard-related procedures. It must also give the date of the most recent update.

Section II - Hazardous Ingredients/Identity Information
Includes the chemicals and common names of hazardous ingredients. For mixtures that have been tested as a whole, only the ingredients found to be hazardous must be listed. If the mixture has not been tested, all toxic ingredients at a concentration greater than 1% must be listed, as well as all carcinogenic (cancer-causing) ingredients at concentrations over 0.1%. The MSDS does not have to list the percentage of each ingredient in the product.

The manufacturer may also list some ingredients as "Trade Secrets," which means the substance will not be identified.

Materials are considered hazardous if:

  • Listed in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Z-List of Toxic and Hazardous Substances. See the OSHA Website, or theAgency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry 's database of hazardous and toxic substances.

  • The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists has assigned a permissible exposure limit (PEL) to the product. The PEL represents the maximum occupational exposure permitted under the OSHA regulations.

  • It is found to be toxic, carcinogenic, irritating, sensitizing or damaging to certain body organs.

Section III - Physical/Chemical Characteristics
Lists technical information about the product, such as the boiling point, vapor pressure, vapor density, solubility in water, specific gravity, volatile percentage, evaporation rate, appearance and odor. For aqueous solutions, pH may be included.

Section IV - Fire and Explosion Hazard Data
Contains technical information on the product's flammability, types of fire extinguishers needed, and other special precautions. Information in this section is important in planning for emergencies.

Section V - Reactivity Data
Addresses the product's compatibility with other chemicals, and special conditions to avoid. The stability section indicates whether the product can decompose, and describes conditions under which decomposition would occur. The hazardous decomposition section tells you what hazardous chemicals might be produced when the product is heated or burned. This information is important in determining proper storage of the product.

Section VI - Health Hazard Data
Lists symptoms of overexposure, acute and chronic health effects, emergency first aid measures, and the product's carcinogenic (cancer-causing) properties. The MSDS must state if a chemical in the product has been found to be a carcinogen (or probable carcinogen) by the International Agency for Research on Cancer and/or OSHA.

This section must also notify you if the product is listed in the U.S. National Toxicology Program's Annual Report on Carcinogens, and should list medical conditions that can be aggravated by exposure to the product.

Section VII - Precautions for Safe Handling and Use
Covers such topics as spill control, waste disposal, storage, and handling. Also provides information on special precautions such as what protective equipment to wear in case of spills.

Section VIII - Control Measures
Contains information about such control measures as ventilation, respirators and personal protective equipment (gloves, goggles, and protective clothing). The ventilation section should explain and recommend ventilation systems, while the respirator recommendations should state what type of respirator cartridge should be used. Most MSDSs do not tell you what type of glove to use, so you should consult other sources such as OSHA for these recommendations.

Other Sections
Additional sections in the MSDS provide technical and transportation data, which we will not cover here.

Protecting Yourself

Once you have identified a hazardous material and its possible health implications, focus on preventing exposure. The most effective ways to prevent illness from exposure are, in this order:

  • Elimination,

  • Substitution,

  • Controlling your exposure, and

  • Personal protective equipment

Eliminate Hazards

Eliminating the hazardous material is the most effective way to prevent exposure and possible health effects. For example, if you do not have to use a dry chromium-containing pigment, then don't use it!

The easiest time to eliminate hazardous materials in your work is at the beginning of your career, or when you start working with new materials. Finding a way to avoid using hazardous materials is the best way to avoid exposure and the health effects that can follow.

Some materials are just too hazardous to use. These include cancer-causing chemicals such as:

  • Asbestos

  • Cadmium fumes

  • Lead or zinc chromate

  • Benzene

  • Chromated copper arsenate

For a list of cancer-causing substances to avoid, see the International Agency for Research on Carcinogens.

Substitute Materials

Try to substitute hazardous materials with less dangerous alternatives. Learning to work with the new material or process can take time and patience; again, it is often easiest to start the process of choosing safer substitutes early in your career, so that you can adjust to the materials. Ideally, using a different and safer material will lead to creative explorations and new ideas that are safer to produce. Give safer substitutes time to become part of your technique, and reserve more hazardous materials for those rare applications done with special precautions.

Suggestions for safer substitutes include:

  • Use the least toxic solvents possible (i.e. denatured alcohol, isopropyl alcohol, acetone, and odorless mineral spirits).

  • Use substitutes for toxic metals such as lead and cadmium (i.e. cadmium-free silver solders, lead-free glazes and enamels).

  • Use water-based materials instead of solvent-based ones (i.e. water-based silk-screen inks and water-based paints).

  • Use liquid materials to replace powders (i.e. wet clay or water-based dyes, instead of dry clay or powdered dyes).

  • Use wet techniques instead of dry techniques (i.e. wet sanding, wet grinding).

  • Apply coatings by brushing or dipping instead of spraying.

For additional information, download one of the following charts, which are provided by the Center for Safety in the Arts and offer information on:

  • Ceramic Substitutions

  • Drawing and Painting Substitution

  • Fiber and Textile Substitutions

  • Graphic Art Substitutions

  • Metalworking Substitutions

  • Photography Substitutions

  • Printmaking Substitutions

  • Sculpture Substitutions

  • Woodworking Substitutions

Control Exposure

When eliminating or substituting hazardous work materials or processes is not feasible, your next option is to control your exposure to the hazard. Techniques include installing ventilation or other equipment to reduce exposure, and limiting the time you spend in the environment where exposure is likely.

Examples of exposure controls include using a glove box to contain dusty materials, using a spray booth to trap paint overspray, and keeping containers of volatile liquids covered between each use. Performing activities that do not directly involve hazardous substance exposures, such as stretching canvases or doing computer work away from these materials, also reduces unnecessary exposure.

Skin Hazards

If you work with materials that are skin hazards, prevent contact and prepare for accidental exposures. Some hazardous materials affect the skin directly, while others are absorbed through the skin and harm other body tissues. Although the skin protects against absorption of many materials, skin that is broken (e.g. cuts, scrapes, burns, etc.) may allow materials to be absorbed more easily. Open or healing wounds should be covered during work until they are fully healed.

Guidelines for avoiding contact with skin hazards:

  • Cover containers of hazardous products securely.

  • Transfer powders carefully to avoid airborne dust production.

  • Pour liquids carefully to avoid spilling.

  • Use a "glove box" for especially hazardous operations. Simple, inexpensive glove box designs can help prevent both skin contact and inhalation of some hazardous materials.

  • Wear protective work clothes and gloves.

  • Wash work clothes separately from your regular clothing to prevent contamination of laundry areas and other clothes. After you wash, follow up with a rinse cycle to help remove any remaining contaminants from the washing machine. This step is especially important in communal wash facilities, as the contamination factor can affect a larger number of people.

  • Provide easy-to-use eyewash fountains or portable eye wash kits.

  • Provide emergency showers.

  • Wash exposed body surfaces at the end of a work period and before contact with other people and non-work related objects (i.e. your car, books, computer, etc.). Never use turpentine or other solvents to clean hands. Instead, use soap and water, or a safe waterless hand cleanser available from a safety supply store. Baby oil (mineral oil) will also remove some paints and printmaking inks from your hands.

Ingestion Hazards

Many hazardous materials can enter the body through the gastrointestinal (digestive) system, where they can be absorbed and distributed to other parts of the body. Swallowing even small amounts of some substances can cause serious health complications, especially when done repeatedly.

Guidelines for avoiding ingestion hazards:

  • Food, drink, tobacco or skin treatments should not be used or stored in the workspace where you use hazardous products and art supplies.

  • Do not touch you mouth, lips or face with work tools or equipment. For example, paintbrushes should not be "tipped" with the lips.

  • Do not touch your lips with dirty fingers.

  • Wash your face, hands and affected skin immediately after spills.

  • Thoroughly wash hands, face and other body surfaces before smoking, eating, drinking or applying makeup and skin treatments.

  • Wash exposed body surfaces at the end of a work period and at the end of each workday before contact with other household members.

  • Change clothes and wash up before entering common areas such as the kitchen, bedroom, or automobile where contaminants may be shed and picked up by others.

Respiratory Hazards

Airborne hazardous materials are often among the most dangerous. The respiratory (breathing) system is very susceptible to injuries that can lead to a lifetime of breathing problems. Solvents, metal fumes, pigment dusts and other hazardous materials can not only harm your respiratory system, but may also quickly pass through the lungs and affect other parts of the body.

Seriously reconsider using materials hazardous by inhalation. If elimination or substitution is not possible, then carefully plan your use and control of these hazards. Make sure these control systems are a part of your general safety routine.

Guidelines for preventing exposure to respiratory hazards:

  • Do not eat, drink, smoke, apply makeup or chew gum in the work area.

  • Dusts should always be wet-mopped, never swept. Sweeping can place dusty materials and hazards back into the air.

  • Dusty work surfaces should be wet-mopped daily to prevent dust from drying and becoming airborne later.

  • Cement floors should be sealed with commercial cement sealers or paint to make cleanup easier.

  • Highly toxic clay, lead, and other types of dust require a special High Efficiency vacuum system, known as a HEPA. Very fine dust particles can easily escape from normal or industrial vacuum cleaner bags and be recycled into your air supply.

  • Make sure your ventilation system is appropriate for your level of airborne hazards, and keep it well-maintained. See the Ventilation section for more information.

Personal Protective Equipment

Of all the methods to protect yourself from exposure, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as gloves and respirator masks are often the least effective. Simple dust masks and dish gloves will not protect you from common art workplace hazards such as solvent vapors, metal fumes and pigment dusts.

PPE must be properly selected, used, and maintained. These responsibilities usually require training from a certified safety professional.

Repetitive Motion Disorders

Repetitive motions, awkward positions and injury symptoms are common in the performing and visual arts. Developing art skills often requires large amounts of practice and repetition of specific motions. Artists might be at special risk from these disorders.

When preparing for a show or deadline, artists often engage in long periods of repetitive practice or work activities. Focusing on the work may distract them from early symptoms, or they might regard pain is an expected part of the creative process.

Tendons, joints, bones, muscles and other body parts will wear from the physical stress of excessive repetitions, and develop inflammation such as tendinitis, myositis, arthritis or Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Disorders that can develop from overuse are known as Repetitive Motion Disorders or Cumulative Trauma Disorders.

The information and recommendations found here are general and may not be appropriate for your work situation. Health conditions and work settings can make your needs unique. Please consult a physician if you have concerns about these issues.

Causal Factors
Repetitive Motion Disorders are most commonly associated with highly repetitive, awkward and forceful motions, but can also result from simple repetitive movements. Repetitive motions in extreme music practice schedules, writing deadlines and art show preparation can all lead to overuse and injury. Overused body parts often react with mild inflammation; if the inflamed structure is not allowed time to return to normal, then the next day's use can cause additional injury. The gradual and additive effects of these small injuries can lead to more long-lasting effects. For example, vocal cord nodules are a repetitive motion disorder that can develop from voice strain and overuse.

Suggestions to reduce repetitive stresses in the arts workplace:

  • Rest affected body parts between necessary, stressful uses.

  • Spread practice, production and performance times as widely as possible through the day. Four hours of practice or work at the drawing board is much less injurious if divided into four one-hour periods and spread from early morning to late in the day, than if done in one long session.

  • Do not spend breaks using the body parts in other repetitive activities. Typing between piano practice periods, for example, can cause additional stress and injury.

  • Avoid forcefulness when possible. Good music teachers often emphasize the importance using relaxed motions. Find ways to efficiently apply only the amount of force necessary for the task.

  • Avoid awkward postures. Again, music teachers often begin with a comfortable, sustainable posture (see Computer-Related) that will allow more productivity with less fatigue and risk of injury. Hunched-over positions in drawing, music and writing will likely limit the artist's long-term productivity. Find a way to bend or position the work or instrument to your body, not the other way around.

Early Detection and Treatment
Repetitive Motion Disorders can be disabling and career-shortening, especially if ignored in the early stages. Early treatment of these disorders is usually much more effective than later treatment. If you begin to experience discomfort in a body part while working in a certain position, or after some amount of repetition, you could be developing a repetitive trauma disorder. Follow the tips above, and rest the affected part as much as possible. If the discomfort does not improve, or returns during the repetitive activities, then consider seeking medical attention.


Computer use has become so widespread in the arts that Repetitive Motion Disorders in this setting are becoming common. Using the computer, sitting for long periods (e.g. drawing board, piano, pottery wheel, etc.) or maintaining an awkward posture can lead to these disorders. Guidelines for setting up a computer workstation focus on back, neck and limb positions that apply to many long-term work positions.

Neutral Work Positions
"Neutral" positions are the least strenuous postures for the muscles, tendons, joints and skeletal system. Your standing neutral position can usually be found by standing and remaining in a relaxed posture for a few minutes. Usually, standing like this leaves the arms and hands resting at your sides, with slight angles at the elbows and wrists. The shoulders are slightly back and the head is level or bent forward slightly.

Using this position as a guide, try to find a sitting position with the back, neck, and arms in the positions established in the standing neutral position. The feet should be on the floor or a stable footrest, and the knees should be level or slightly below the hips. Support the back, hips and upper thighs with a chair that helps you comfortably maintain this position with little effort. This may mean investing in a chair that adjusts to support the "small" of your lumbar back (the forward curve of the lower back leading down to the hips) and the backwards curve of the upper back. The head should be level, or bent slightly forward.

Now, position the work surface or keyboard to within easy reach. Bring your arms and hands up to meet the work surface with the least amount of change to their position. Bend the elbows as needed, but leave them hanging relaxed at your sides. Observe the angle of the wrists when your arms are hanging at your sides. Then, position the keyboard or work surface to allow the wrists to remain as "neutral" as possible. This might mean adjusting keyboard or work table height and position.

Adjusting your chair and work station to support you in a neutral position will allow you return to this position frequently, especially when you are tired. Do not force yourself to maintain this position during all work times. You might want to change positions, use arm rests, wrist rests, or footrests, or recline the chair back at times. You might also want to change to a standing position. You can use the neutral position concepts again to adjust your standing workstation to your body.

Be sure that other features of your workstation (e.g. light glare, ventilation problems, noise, etc.) do not interfere with your ability to return to the neutral positions. Maintaining awkward postures to avoid glare or other factors can lead to physical stresses and Repetitive Motion Disorders.

Back Injuries

Back injuries from lifting are the most costly workplace injuries, and can lead to long-lasting activity limitations. Many back injuries occur when persons performing a task underestimate the weight and the strain of the activity. Miscalculating that a particular task is safe and routine is a leading factor in back injuries.

Simple changes in technique, aging, and unrecognized health conditions can lead to sudden and sometimes debilitating back problems. Protect yourself by avoiding unnecessary lifting. In addition, approach lifting tasks with care, using upright, neutral postures and proper body mechanics.

Lifting Tips

  • Eliminate unnecessary lifting, whenever possible.

  • If the object is over 40 to 50 pounds or bulky, do not lift it by yourself.

  • If the load is in an awkward place, move it into position first, then lift.

  • Always face the objects to be lifted.

  • Bend your legs, not your back. Use your legs to do the work.

  • Use a wide, balanced stance with one foot slightly ahead of the other.

  • Use smooth, lifting movements, and do not jerk.

  • Try to keep the load close to the body as you move.

  • Position the load as close to waist height as possible.

  • Do not twist when turning. Turn your whole body by changing foot positions.

  • Lower the load slowly by bending your legs, not your back.

  • Return to an upright, neutral position as soon as possible.

  • Move the load towards you, not away from you.

  • Use slides and lateral transfers instead of lifting.

  • Reduce reaching distances.

  • Place heaviest objects on shelves at waist level, lighter objects on higher or lower shelves.

  • Eliminate any barriers between the load and lifter.

  • Combine operations, or shorten the distances that material must be moved.

  • Use a table if the load must be turned or positioned after initial lift.

  • Consider automating the lifting task, or using a mechanical lifting device.

  • Reduce the load so that the weights are within these lifting guidelines.

  • If the load is to heavy or bulky, get help to lift it.

  • Transport loads on a cart by pushing, not pulling.

Hazardous Art Waste

Artists sometimes dump or throw away hazardous materials in the trash, or rinse them down the drain. This is harmful to the water supply and environment, and may also be illegal. Hazardous products may interact with other chemicals in your drainage system or waste receptacles, resulting in unexpected and dangerous consequences. Proper handling of hazardous art materials and waste requires understanding the types of hazardous wastes generated, and their disposal requirements.

Types of Waste

Artists often use materials that become hazardous waste. Some harmful substances are in the art products themselves, while others are used in preparatory products. Characteristics that cause a product to be considered hazardous waste include ignitability, corrosiveness, reactivity and toxicity. Certain chemicals and materials listed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are also regulated as hazardous waste.

Art wastes that are not considered hazardous include preservative-free sawdust; water-based paints without metals such as cadmium, cobalt, or lead; clay; old canvas or stretchers; scrap metal; and water-based dyes.

Art wastes that are considered hazardous include:

  • Solvents : Materials such as oil paints and paint thinners, turpentine, paint removers, lacquers and their thinners, varnishes, inks, plastic resins, and cleaning solvents.

  • Aerosol Spray Cans : Aerosol spray containers such as spray paints, adhesives, fixatives, and dyes can pose an explosion risk. Accidents can be caused by puncturing spray cans; explosions have resulted from partially full cans that have been discarded in incinerators.

  • Acids and Alkalis : Acids, bases, and mixtures having a pH of up to 2.0 or 12.5 or greater are considered corrosive. pH information can be found on the product's label, obtained from the manufacturer or listed on the product's MSDS. Printmaking processes use large quantities of acids, including nitric, hydrochloric, and phosphoric acids. Glassblowing and stained glass processes often use hydrofluoric acid. Acetic acid and many alkaline chemicals such as sodium hydroxide and potassium carbonate are used in photography.

  • Photo Chemicals : Photographic chemicals can include alkalis, silver compounds, ferricyanides phenolic developers, p-phenylene diamine derivatives, formaldehyde, etc. The total volume of photographic solutions generated even by small-scale photo processing can amount to dozens of gallons daily.

  • Metals : Toxic metals are present in a wide range of art materials, including paint and ink pigments, ceramic glazes, copper enamels, and glassblowing materials. These include compounds of lead, cadmium, copper, cobalt, chromium, selenium, arsenic, manganese, and antimony. Some state EPAs recommend artists' paints be saved for a collection program rather than handled like house paint, because they contain higher levels of toxic metals than other paints. The Washington State Department of Ecology Website offers information on how to safely discard paint waste.

  • Flammable and Combustible Wastes : Combustible wastes are liquids with a flashpoint less than 140 degrees Fahrenheit, ignitable compressed gases, and/or non-liquids that can cause fire through friction, moisture absorption or spontaneous chemical change. Examples include epoxies, rubber cement, solvents, and solvent-based paints and inks. Flashpoint information can be found on the MSDS.

  • Reactives : When mixed with water, some materials -- called "reactive" -- have violent chemical reactions or form explosive mixtures or toxic vapors. Examples of reactive include: chromic acid, organic peroxides (catalysts in many polyester resin systems), cyanides (found in photography, electroplating, metalwork and jewelry cleaning) and potassium chlorate (used in making Dutch Mordant).

  • Acute Hazardous Waste : Chemicals such as arsenic compounds, hydrogen cyanide, cyanide salts, many pesticides, and vanadium pentoxide are considered acute hazardous waste. These materials may be found in preserved animal and plant product specimens and other art materials.

  • Miscellaneous : Other classes of hazardous waste not normally encountered by artists may include radioactive materials, medical waste and pathological waste (i.e. viral or bacteriological waste).

Disposal Requirements

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates disposal of hazardous waste and industrial wastewater discharge as defined in the 1976 Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). The responsibility for administering RCRA rests with individual states, through agencies such as the Washington State Department of Ecology.

There are four categories of hazardous waste producers. Each category has a distinct set of definitions and regulations that dictate how to dispose waste. The EPA classifies most artists outside the home, art businesses, academic art institutions, community centers and printmaking or photographic studios as Commercial Generators, which includes Large Quantity Generators, Small Quantity Generators, and Conditionally Exempt Small Quantity Generators. Artists working at home may qualify for those exemptions allowed for Household Hazardous Waste Generators. However, the distinction between household and commercial generators in this situation has been vague.

Though you might not be obligated by law to dispose of your hazardous materials like commercial generators, these wastes are still important contributors to environmental degradation and the resulting health problems. See Reducing and Disposing of Hazardous Art Wastes below for tips on how to responsibly minimize the environmental impact of these wastes.

The Washington EPA's website offers information on disposing hazardous waste. In addition, review Waster Disposal in Chapter 20: Utilities for more information on how and where to dispose of hazardous art waste in the Seattle area.

Reducing Hazardous Waste

Steps you can take to help reduce and dispose of hazardous waste correctly include:

  • Returning unused hazardous products to manufacturers, if possible. Some manufacturers provide or fund collection and exchange services for spent materials. The most common example is the return of used printer ink cartridges.

  • Minimizing the volume of waste you generate by planning your product use carefully.

  • Using recycling programs.

  • Set up recycling programs. Artists' groups can organize swap and collection programs.

  • Using hazardous waste collection programs . See Waste Disposal in Chapter 20: Utilities for additional information.

  • Evaporating small amounts of solvents or solvent-containing materials (less than a pint), if other and better alternatives are not available. Evaporation should take place either outdoors or inside a local exhaust hood where no one will be exposed to vapors.

  • Placing non-hazardous materials, including clay, non-leaching or non-dissolving, solid metals and paint residues, in the trash. Glazed pottery can go in the trash if it doesn't give off toxic metals such as lead or cadmium.

  • Neutralizing or diluting acid and alkali wastes, and recovering silver from photographic fixer solutions, to make them non-hazardous.

  • Following the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) provides the best directions on how a hazardous product should be stored and disposed.

  • Taking hazardous materials to a licensed hazardous waste disposal company, if necessary. Individuals, Household Generators and Conditionally Exempt Small Quantity Generators are exempt from RCRA transportation regulations that require (often costly) pick-up by a licensed hazardous waste transporter. The local telephone directory provides listings of hazardous waste disposal transporters and companies. In addition, you can contact the Washington State Department of Ecology. For additional tips and information, review De-toxing your Art in Chapter 22: Green Practice.

Artists and Healthcare

If you suspect that a material or a condition at work is causing you health problems, seek a medical evaluation as soon as possible. Many work-related illnesses and injuries can be treated more successfully and with fewer long-lasting effects when diagnosed early. Artists who lack medical insurance may hesitate in seeking medical care, but delaying evaluation can often lead to larger health problems that could interfere with work.

Since health professionals seldom perceive working in the arts to be hazardous, many art-related illnesses can (and do) go unrecognized. It's your duty to help your healthcare provider understand your exposure concerns. Prepare for your visit by listing your work materials and how you use them, and conditions such as awkward work postures or repetitive motions (practicing, keyboard use, vibrating tool use, dancing, etc.). Copies of product labels, MSDSs, photos or demonstrations can aid your healthcare provider in identifying or ruling out potential causes of your symptoms.

Children in Art Workspaces

Exposure to certain art materials and conditions can be riskier for children than for adults, so protect them. Children should not be allowed in work areas where they could come in contact with potentially hazardous materials by inhalation, ingestion or skin exposure.

Hazardous conditions such as noise, temperature extremes and dangerous machinery should also be avoided. Work areas with these materials or conditions should be separated from children's living areas. Avoid inadvertently tracking hazardous materials into common household areas or cars where children could come into contact with them. See Control Exposure for more information.

Art products used by children should be carefully evaluated to ensure that they do not contain hazards. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's publication provides further information on children's arts supplies; also, review the Resource section for additional information on children's health and safety issues, and Substitute Materials which includes charts with material substitutes for art products, including those for children.

Key things to consider about children's interactions with art materials include:

  • Children are shorter than adults, so they breathe dust, soil and vapors that might hang close to the ground, or be kicked up from the floor.

  • Children have more hand-to-mouth behaviors that can increase their exposure to ingestion hazards.

  • Children's lower body weight and higher intake rates can result in a greater dose of hazardous substance per body weight if the materials are accidentally ingested.

  • Children have developing body systems that can be permanently damaged by some hazardous exposures, especially during critical growth stages.

  • Children are less able to understand and participate in prevention activities.

  • Children are less familiar with illness symptoms, and less able to verbalize their feelings when they have symptoms.

Reproductive Health Hazards

Some art materials are known or suspected to cause miscarriages, birth defects, infertility and other reproductive problems. If you are considering having children, protect your reproductive health by educating yourself about the materials and products you use.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) provide up-to-date lists of recognized reproductive hazards and detailed information on the reproductive hazards of specific substances and physical agents such as radiation, heat, noise and vibration. Unfortunately, the effects of many materials on the reproductive processes remain unstudied; therefore, these lists do not include information on chemicals that are rarely used. Regardless, using these resources to evaluate your work exposures can help you take necessary steps to limit your exposure to reproductive hazards.

If you are planning to have children and a substance you use is known or suspected to have harmful effects on reproductive organs or processes, stop using it. Unfortunately, no one knows what levels of exposure to hazardous substances are dangerous to the egg, sperm, or fetus, or to breastfeeding babies. Some hazards cause problems with fertility. If you are having difficulty conceiving, alert your healthcare provider to potential work exposures.


Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
Serves the public by using the best science available, taking responsive public health actions, and providing health information to prevent harmful exposures and disease related to toxic substances. Runs a database that catalogs toxic substances.

American Conference of Governmental and Industrial Hygienists
A member-based organization of professionals that advances worker health and safety through education and the development and dissemination of scientific and technical knowledge.

American Indoor Air Quality Council
Nonprofit association of IAQ managers, technicians, investigators, consultants, and professionals.

Canadian Center for Occupational Health Safety
Provides additional information on chemical and material hazards in the workplace, and a database of these hazards.

Centers for Disease Registry and Prevention
A health surveillance system to monitor and prevent disease outbreaks and bioterroristic events. Maintains national health statistics and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

Consumer Product Safety Commissions (CPSC)
An independent federal regulatory agency that conducts research, develops product standards, orders recalls, and provides information to the public about a variety of consumer products.

Indoor Air Quality Association (IAQA)
Promotes the exchange of indoor environmental information through education and research.

Indoor Environmental Quality (CDC/NIOSH)
Resources, documents and topics on workplace IAQ.

International Agency for Research on Carcinogens (IARC)
Coordinates and conducts research on the causes of human cancer and the mechanisms of carcinogenesis, and develops scientific strategies for cancer control.

National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Established under the National Cancer Act of 1937, NCI is the federal government's principal agency for cancer research and training.

National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH)
Promotes health and quality of life by preventing or controlling those diseases, birth defects, disabilities, or deaths that result from interactions with the environment.

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
A program of the Center for Disease Control. Responsible for conducting research and making recommendations for the prevention of work-related disease and injury.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Uncovers new knowledge that will lead to better health for everyone.

National Safety Council
Educates and influences society to adopt safety, health, and environmental policies that prevent human suffering and economic losses arising from preventable causes.

OSHA: Lead in Construction
Before renovating, be sure to check to see if your home has lead paint.

Theatre Safety Network, UK
Websites linked discuss various safety topics pertinent to theaters.

Eliminate Hazards
Substitute Materials
Control Exposure
Skin Hazards
Ingestion Hazards
Respiratory Hazards
Personal Protective Equipment
Repetitive Motion Disorders
Back Injuries
Hazardous Art Waste
Types of Waste
Disposal Requirements
Reducing Hazardous Waste
Children in Art Workspaces
Reproductive Health Hazards
Safety in Workspaces
Safety Surveys
Emergency Plans
Emergency Equipment
Local Exhaust Ventilation
Know Your Materials
Protecting Yourself
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