>. . . . Over my years of teaching in Kansas City I purchased my clay and glazes from two major sources. I saw kimo drips attached to the owners of both clay distributors. Both men died of lung cancer from inhalation of clay dust. Do take certain precautions to keep the clay dust under control.
When you said that two clay workers you knew died of lung cancer from inhalation of clay dust, I wondered how the cause of the cancer was determined. We know that silicosis is a fairly direct and unavoidable result of breathing too much clay dust, but they did not get silicosis, so they did not breath huge much clay dust. We often notice that one person gets cancer and another in a similar situation does not. Cancer is often caused by a combination of genetics, environment, diet, smoking, and so on.
You do not say if they smoked. Maybe these two clay workers got cancer from asbestos that used to be part of some clay blends. We now know that some talc deposits contain asbestos and other talc deposits do not contain asbestos. We now know that asbestos does cause a particular kind of cancer, but this may not have been known until about 30 or so years ago. Since then, asbestos has been eliminated from products although much remains in buildings. Commercially blended white low fire (earthenware) clay has, for many years, included talc as ingredient of choice to make low fire glazes fit better (have less crazing). If your clay worker acquaintances were blending clay with talc containing asbestos, the dust from the clay they mixed may have may indeed have been a factor in their cancer, not because it was clay, but because it contained asbestos. Today talc from deposits without asbestos would be used to flux white earthenware clay.
Still, the safest thing is not to breath or take in any extra air pollutants in any environment because it is really hard to know what the chemicals could do to us. Some personalities enjoy and thrive on risky behavior. What if we used our classrooms to channel this into art, science, and other fields that benefit and thrive from risk taking and channel it away from risky lifestyle habits?
Does learning to value ourselves, our health, being good to ourselves, and caring for ourselves connect to learning to care for the world and for others? Can we have more art projects that build self-esteem as well more projects that raise questions related to clear skies, clean air, pure streams, healthy oceans, less trash, more recycling, more reuse, sustainable agriculture, and architecture that leaves the place better than it we found it? What if we strive to be art teachers who give fewer answers, make fewer assumptions, but ask better questions? Can we nurture creative thinking that is more aware of problems and solutions? Can the unexpected but real causes of danger and/or beauty be imagined? Can actual prevention and cures be imagined? Can better ways to do things can be designed? Nurturing the imagination does not only nurture better art, it may make a better world. In our world, maybe the best we can do for our minds and to stay healthy and fulfilled is tea!
ch fewer habits of imitation and foster more habits of imagination. Its a lucky and fulfilling thing to be an art teacher because nurturing creativity is so much better than predetermined results and test scores.