Van Gogh was not crazy when he sliced his left ear off with a razor. The poor fellow was suffering the effects of lead poisoning, given to him by his precious pigments. Or at least that is what scientist now believe. Van Gogh was not alone in his affliction. Goya, Caravaggio, & Michelangelo are also believed to have suffered the effects of lead poisoning. It is my view that studio safety is not discussed enough. While we would all jump at the chance for a taste of the brilliance of the old masters. We can probably do without lead induced hysteria. Yes it can be boring mulling over the many strange and exciting ways to disfigure yourself in the name of art. (Side Note* Sebastian Horsley a London Artist. Went through "Extreme Suffering" by crucifixion in the Philippines. All for the sake of his Art!) For the sake of our skin, sanity and super sexy body parts! Here are my top 5 safety tips.
Before we get started lets review this fun absorption graph! As you can see your hands don't absorb at the highest of rates. but your hands do travel everywhere across your body. Between eating, scratching and going to the bathroom. Your hands could potentially be a carrier of toxins to all the most sensitive areas of your body. By Following these simple tips we can minimize exposoure. Keeping us healthy and creating.
1: No Eating! Oh this is a hard one for me. I L.O.V.E. snacking while I work. This is a big ,big, No No! Solvents, Paints, Varnishes, Glues, Pigments contain a whole host of cancer causing, bone robbing, brain eating nasties. Yes some pigments still contain lead. Making art should be fun not hazardous. Eating in an area where those chemicals are potentially floating into the air gives them direct access to your body via your food. Toxins that don't make it into the air are likely all over your hands and if you are eating on your food as well.
2: Ventilation! Proper ventilation in your studio is paramount. Silicosis: is a Lung Disease caused by Silica Dust. With no cure and treatment providing only minimal relief, it is paramount that Ceramics, Potters and Sculptors know the hazards of dust and are adamant about studio cleanliness, Ventilation and Spraying & Mopping beats sweeping any day of the week. As sweeping puts particles into the air.
Artist working in clay are not the only ones that need to be concerned with air quality. 2-D artist also work with components hazardous to the body. Varnish is the first that comes to mind. Especially spray varnish or any other material you are spraying into the air. Solutions used in darkroom work, are also hazardous. Be smart, be aware. Don't stop at opening a window, Invest in studio air filtration and a respiratory mask. It may seem like a hassle now. Especially if you are a young artist and the effects of a studio environment are far from evident. But trust me your body and lungs will thank you later.
The Austin Air Health Mate makes several Air Purifier models varying in size to suit both large and small studios. Bonus, they take out air particulate so they are great for 3-D Artist!
3: Glove up! Artist of all sorts work in volatile compounds and heavy metals, absorbable through the skin. Like we saw in the infographic above. Absorption rates throughout the skin are intense. With the medical community rounding the average absorption rate at 60% across our largest organ.
I myself have been struggling with a reaction to Heavy Metals present in my cobalt blue. I spent just over a month waiting for my hands to heal, before I finally broke down and went to the Old Doc. He prescribed antibiotics and topical steroids.
Photo of one of my painful fingers several weeks after I started treatment. It was So much worse. I was unable to paint for 2 MONTHS! That is a lot of time off work. Even now my skin is not what it was. Super sensitive, easily dried and thin. Several Times a week I slather up my hands and put gloves on for the night. Otherwise they start creeping back to unusable, swollen and painful meat hooks.
So now I paint in gloves, I varnish in gloves, I do almost everything in gloves. $12 a month keeps my stocked so I can stay productive. I really like these Latex-Free/Powder-Free gloves by Skintx. You can find them on Amazon with prime 2 day shipping! Whatever gloves you get make sure they are chemical resistant. After all that is the exposoure we are seeking to prevent.
4: Eyewear! My High School Art class had an Eye Wash Station. Used for accidental chemical exposure. I never saw anyone use it that needed it and I am sure it was there for a combination of safety regulations and insurance purposes. It was there for the unimaginable "What if's" to mitigate damage and loss of vision. I don't have special eye faucets. But I do take steps to protect my eyes and so should you. I don't always sport full on protective goggles, but at the very least I have my glasses on. Not only to see those fine details, but to add a layer between my eyes and everything else. My hands and my eyes are the most precious tools I own. Protecting them is protecting my business, my joy, my livelihood. Accidents happen. Better safe than sorry.
If all you have to worry about is splashing. Then simple safety glasses would be sufficient. On the other hand. Cutting, sawing, breaking, bending and so on requires impact goggles. They can be found at home improvement stores, amazon and blick. Fairly cheap investment for your vision safety.
5: Detox! This one comes from my lovely Aunt, who is a very talented painter. Several times a year she detoxes to remove all the heavy metals she has or may have in her body . While Chelation therapy is the most effective way to remove serious heavy metal exposure (hopefully none of us will ever need it!) There are supplements effective in removing heavy metals especially in the digestive tract. Such as Chlorella a single cell green algae, that acts as a natural chelator to remove heavy metals. You can find numerous supplements to aide you in your detox. Some will not only contain Chlorella but also Cilantro (an effective detoxifier). Vitamin C and a healthy dose of probiotics is also recommended when doing a heavy metal detox.
Detox to keep your brain, organs and bones from the devastating effects of heavy metals.
*Disclaimer: I am not a Doctor, nor do I claim to be. Consult your physician about supplements, before you start taking anything as well as heavy metal and chemical exposure. Information stated in this blog is no substation for professional medical advice.
Art doesn't have to be scary. Be Smart and Stay Safe!
May your heart be light, your hands never idle and your mind inspired