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When I was in college taking a painting class, I started having seizures.
Turns out the turpenoids and oil paint are something I am very allergic to.
Now I find that fumes of all kinds get to me faster than other people. My
daughter has to do her nails outside because I really cannot tolerate that
The other day a parent came to my room with her son because he had passed out
in the hallway. We checked all the materials in the artroom and realized they
were non toxic. A maintenance person had been spraying something on the
ceiling in the hallway that made me want to run from the building, and he was
up there on the ladder joking (or was he) about how high he was. I wonder if
the boy was reacting to that?
After noticing that I have respiratory illnesses every time I use pastel
chalk or plaster of paris, I decided those materials are best outdoors or not
used at all.
I am probably oversensitive, but I think we owe it to our students (and
ourselves) to monitor what we use in our classroom and even what is used in
our buildings. If I find the supply cabinet in the teachers workroom that
contains rubber cement and white-out unlocked, I go as the secretary to lock
it back up... a middle school student stole rubber cement from his school and
he went from an intelligent, normal kid to a mentally handicapped person
after sniffing the rubber cement to get high.
In my own artwork, I am very cautious about what I use... I no longer do
silversmithing because of the pickling solution and other toxins. I found a
way to make jewelry using beads and combining elements... so there are ways
When I was in grad school, I had to do my work for a painting class in a
different studio because the main studio was using oil paint. The teacher was
fine with that, and I did all my work in mixed media using watercolor and
I know there was a book published about hazards in the Art Room by the NAEA,
written by Chuck Qualley. I am not sure if it is still in print.
Kayenta Intermediate School
(North Eastern Arizona)