The pregnant student that I am working with informed me of her condition
right before the holidays. We were glazing at the time, which of course
raised red flags for me. I came home and did a web search, and found a good
web site that dealt with "hazardous materials", listing the exact components
that might be problematic, their toxicity and methods of dealing with them.
Although all materials that enter my classroom are labelled AP nontoxic,
this system is only true in regards to fully formed human beings...not
fetuses. The glazes actually have a range of "safety"...and if you look
closely at the catalogs when you order them, that range is listed. The
problems lie with lead (surprise! It's still in there!) and cadmium, which
both can cause problems with fetal development AND, in large concentrations,
with adult health. Those glazes rated 1 or 2 are of least concern. I will
only be purchasing these from now on. The suggested precautions were fairly
simple: don't inhale the kiln fumes, don't ingest the glazes, avoid skin
contact. What I chose to do (after discussing it with administration and
guidance), was show the student the information, and give her the option of
continuing the course with protective equipment, or taking an alternative
course for the duration of the semester. I also told her MY opinion...that
it's better to be safe than sorry. I would have opted for the alternative
course. She chose to continue, with protective equipment. So now she may
only use #1 or#2 glazes, she must use rubber gloves and wear an apron or
paint shirt, and we don't fire the kiln when she has class. According to
the guidelines I read, and the information on materials, this should prevent
any problems. I still would have opted for complete distance from the
glazes if it had been me.
Are there any pregnant art teachers out there? What are your opinions?
What precautions are you taking?