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Re: Allergic to Clay?

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From: Sharon Henneborn (heneborn_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Thu Oct 11 2001 - 23:22:52 PDT


The gagging and wheezing are a strong warning that the dust is
dangerous for your health.

Breathing the dust is so very dangerous. There is so much information
out that warns of this danger that it is hard to think that teachers
still expose themselves and their students to breathing any of this
dust at all. It is cumulative and can be compared to asbestos and
tobacco smoke for damage to the respiratory system.

There are safe ways to handle clay and we all need to educate
ourselves to make sure we are not making serious trouble for ourselves
down the road. I have been teaching art for 39 years. The
information was not available then to help us with the protection we
needed to keep ourselves safe. I could tell you many sad stories of
artists and art teachers who have had careers and lives shortened by
the ill health that was a result of exposure to clay dust. I am
fortunate that I connected with some knowledgeable people sponsored by
the American Lung Association. I regained my health but I am not able
to be around the clay anymore. I taught pottery and wheel for all my
classes and the community school classes. I had one to three kilns
firing every day most of the school year and summer classes also.

Some people have immediate reactions to the dust and molds. Just
because you do not have a reaction doesn't mean that your lungs are
not effected. Many years ago one of my students was in college and
took a ceramics course. The teacher was not taking any precautions
and my student was trying to warn her of the dangers. She was
annoyed. My student called me and said you need to call this woman
and warn her of the dangers. I did but she was even more annoyed and
said it didn't bother her. My student called me back and begged me to
try to convince her that she was putting her life in jeopardy. Before
I could call again my student called back in hysterics and said it was
too late! "They took the teacher out of school in an ambulance. Her
lungs collapsed." She died soon after.

Do I have your attention? As you can tell I have very strong feelings
about this. The first hint I had that the dust was dangerous was in
the mid '60s when a young ceramist was getting weaker and weaker
month by month. Doctors could not find anything causing his weakness.
After he died they did an autopsy and found his body was loaded with
barium, silica, and other clay minerals and chemicals. I didn't limit
my exposure even after knowing this! It took getting very sick myself
before I gave up working with the clay. I am sure if I had known how
to take precautions early in my career I would be able to enjoy
working with clay today. I still design pieces in my head but can't
get near the dust again.

Still have your attention???

Subject: Re: Allergic to Clay?
Date: Wed, Oct 10, 2001, 8:20 PM
<snip>
Now that I've gotten a bit older I've found that I can hardly tolerate
being in a room with the dust flying around without gagging, coughing
and wheezing.

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