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Lesson Plans

Re: ceramics and pregnancy

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Patricia Munce (pdmun)
Sun, 5 Jan 1997 13:37:10 -0800

Dear Sandy,

I too know about the different toxic materials in the glazes and the gases
produced when firing. I have a vent over the electric kiln I use in the
room. I only fire the bisque ware. Glazed ware is fired outside. I have
just about eliminated the lead. I have a few left. All are labeled.
Several are marginal problems according to information available today. I
stress today.

Tomorrow, we can have an entirely different story from the experts. THAT
IS MY CONCERN. What is safe today, can be marked dangerous tomorrow.

I had a pregnant student a few weeks back, violate my rules on glazing
because she wanted her work to be put in the kiln that day so she could
have it for Christmas. Another student noticed and told me immediately.
(Her friend who usually does her glazing for her, was absent. She was too
shy to ask me or another student.) We then had another talk about safety
AGAIN and the unborn fetus. I also warned her that I would be making a
record of the violation. If this happened again, she would be removed from
my class. I informed her counselor and the child care teacher who deals
with these students.

My point here is that it is extremely hard to monitor every student every
minute in a room that contains harmful elements. I have 30 kids working 7
different work sites using materials. This room is very large (5,000 sq.
ft. I estimate) by normal standards and I have an outside firing area where
kilns rust so nicely in the winter, but its safer.

1. Glazing table with high and low fire glazes.
2. Two trimming kick wheels,
3. 4 electric wheels
4. 8 normal work tables
5. the wedging area table
6. the damp room, and
7. outside for sanding firing clay

Not everyone has this problem, I realize. If you have a small closet for a
room, you would like to trade with me, right? Just remember I walk my
legs off here.

Pat Munce
pdmun@telis. org

>I recently had to take a close look at this very issue. How interesting and
>timely that it is being discussed right now.
>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?