As an artist, it is extremely important for you to be aware of your health and safety. You should know about the materials you’re using to create your artwork and other physical conditions that may jeopardize your health. In this article I provide important resources to protect artists’ health and safety.
Artists’ Health Alliance
In 1997, a group of artists came together committed to enhancing the wellbeing of professional artists, students and teachers and formed the Artists’ Health Alliance (formerly the Artists’ Health Centre Foundation). It vision was to create a center “for holistic treatment and comprehensive health education and outreach.”
The Alliance works in partnership with The Al & Malka Green Artists’ Health Centre, Toronto Western Hospital (Centre), founded in 2002, “to ensure the needs of the artistic community are being met, and is accomplished through ongoing communication with the arts community, the Christine Ardagh Education & Outreach Program, Needs Assessment Surveys and the work of the Artists’ Committee.”
Visit the Artists’ Health Alliance website: http://artistshealth.com/about-ahc/
Maintain Physical Health While In Your Studio
The visual artists’ routine is sedentary which can produce immediate and long term health problems. Realizing this, the mission of Wellness for Makers is to motivate and empower artists through education and mindful living. Self-care, stretching, and massage techniques are emphasized. “We strive to make it easy to find good resources, including interviews, articles, videos, and links to valuable organizations.” Their workshops provide hands-on training in stretching and massage techniques that are easy to incorporate into an artist’s daily studio routine.
Visit the Wellness for Makers’ website: http://www.wellnessformakers.com
Look for Health Labeling on Art Materials
ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) wrote the health labeling standard adopted into Federal Law based on toxicology reports so consumers can easily recognize materials that pose potential health risks. If there is ever a safety concern about any of the art materials you may purchase you should look for a health warning that is clearly printed on the label. It should say, “Health Label conforms to ASTM D-4236.”
Visit the ASTM website: https://www.astm.org/
The Art and Creative Materials Institute, Inc.
ACMI is an international association of about 200 art, craft and creative material manufacturers which seeks to promote safety in art and creative products through its certification program. Many small companies, as well as large ones, participate in the ACMI product certification program.
Visit the ACMI website: https://acmiart.org/
Know the Culprits
As you know many of the materials and machines being used to make art can come with potential risks. A few of the dangerous culprits that may have volatile organic compounds include lacquers, thinners, aerosol sprays and inks. Also, ceramic clays contain silica dust and glazes can contain toxic metals. Look for healthier substitutions and reduce your risk for harmful effects.
Here’s an interesting fact: According to the recommendation of environmental hygienists, studio air should be changed ten times per hour. A solution to increasing air exchange can be attained by opening the windows and by inserting a fan in one window to blow the air out.
There are several books available that educate artists about art materials. Here are some of the the most definitive resources and are available on amazon.com:
The Artist’s Handbook of Materials and Techniques by Ralph Mayer
The Painter’s Handbook by Mark Gottsegen
Artist Beware, The Hazards in Working with All Art and Craft Materials and the Precautions Every Artist and Craftsperson Should Take by Michael McCann PhD CIH
Health Hazards Manual for Artists by Michael McCann Ph.D. and Angela Babin
You may also want to read Are Your Art Materials Making You Sick?