The kiln fumes thread has had me take a walk down memory lane:
Those of us with long art teaching careers have often had many years of exposure
to hazardous products. Our "art rooms" often are former classrooms not designed
with the safety requirements ( building codes)
of a new art room.
I remember migraines that seemed to coincide with permanent markers ( water
based didn't exist in most art supplies); acetone was a commonly used ingredient
Acetone again for cleaning oil base inks off our silkscreens, ( direct
absorption through the skin..), breathing all types of dust inclduing dry glazes
with lead, unvented jewelry studio classes lead-based solder w/ lead,
etching with solvents, rubber cement.
Cleaning up oil based inks, asbestos gloves, benzene, cadmium and cobalt paints,
Spray painting indoors, airbrushing without exhaust systems.
Although it hasn't (yet) caught up with me, it may be too late for those of us
that had heavy exposures during our student years, and early teaching years,
to escape the cumulative health effects.
Today, probably as a result of those early years, I have no tolerance to
chemicals even being in a room with dry erase markers guarantees a migraine. One
of my ongoing crusades has been to make students aware of potential exposures.
I'm amazed still when I run into another old timer teacher that clings to the
preferred products despite the dangers we now know about.
Now, as then young people expect to live forever. I feel a duty to
warn them to be careful-- wish someone had put the idea to question in my
head--however, safer products did not exist. Even in these "informed times" In
my own school system I've found little support for these concerns,
I was a student at MassArt ( in Boston), considered then, as now a top college
for Art. We had old buildings, rented factories. The only ventilation
"system" was large windows. In my studio classes, as well as art-ed
preparation toxic materials, or safety concerns were not part of our
If you are a young art student, or teacher perhaps it seems crazy that we
didn't question our safety. We didn't have alternative products and the
awareness of today had not evolved.
encourage all younger teachers to be proactive for your own safety and
that of your students. Make the right decisions, even if budget takes a
hit. Refuse the donations of old glazes, "free" kilns that have disintegrating
asbestos tops, "still good" markers, and solvents.