I could not keep back a smile upon reading your post.
Although you are serious and mean well with the article which you are
writing...... the "off the cuff" response that I would have offered in
response to your request would have involved something to the effect "that
the greatest hazard to my health as an art educator is not the silica dust
of the clay or the toxic nature of some of the pigment and glaze ingredients
etc Instead, the very real hazard to my health as an educator in the public
school is the rising percentage of dangerous students who are coming into
the educational system."
Many of us are asked to stand between angry and emotionally unstable
individuals who are about to do bodily harm to one another and anything in
between. Some of us have had emotionally unstable individuals with criminal
intent come to class with loaded firearms. Then there were the tires which
were "poorly" sliced by students at school, but which did not begin to
loose air until the family was in the car and moving at a high rate of
speed on the highway coming home from school.
I am sure each of the middle and high school educators of artsednet could
offer their particular list of similar situations where the health hazard
has not been so much the nature of the physical working environment or the
nature of the materials which we must use, but it has been a small, very
dangerous, percentage of the individuals from our society who are placed in
our classes and who become our responsibility while they are at school .
The problem becomes understandable when one discovers that several family
members of these children are in the revolving doors of our criminal justice
system, or when violence, sexual abuse, drugs, alcohol, ganges and teen
pregnancy have had a harsh role in the lives of these unloved,
undisciplined, and uncaring individuals who present a hazard to us and
others students who share their classes.
Thank goodness for the majority of the kids who take our classes and
participate positively in the learning experience. Their presence and the
work they create help us to find some meaning, some reason and some reward
in the work we do.
Concerning the original subject of your request..... some of us who have
worked in an environment of clay and chemical dust have seen lung problems
develop from the effects of silica and other chemicals. My problems are
relatively minor and have come from an earlier life as a clay artist .
I am happy to report that the public school art room is kept cleaner, by
far, then the typical potters studio. Clay and glazes are not usually
materials which are in constant use in the public school art room so the
levels of dust in the environment are usually quite low, come for a few days
when the kids are doing clay projects and then go away as the projects
involve other media..