Kevin: What do you mean the "elemental" content of the pigments? What is she hoping to find out? And why? There are 25 years of incredibly detailed analyses of old masters paints in the AIC journals and other sources. And she doesn't have access to the same pigments they used--only the ones hyped as the same by sellers.
I suggest she contact people at a university conservation department such as Winterthur Museum at the U of Delaware. I train there regularly and could put her in touch with the paintings conservation people. She should find out if there is any merit to what she is doing. If she is getting her ideas from people in the art department, she is following the advice of the grossly uninformed. They have already proven that to me by suggesting your student wear a respirator. Kevin, you need to get yourself into that art department as check out this kind of use of respirators. Lord help you if they are working with powdered pigments and respirators there. Geez.
There are two reasons for not using a respirator:
1. Many "art" pigment suppliers get some of their pigments from paint industry sources (despite their hype) and those pigments will be in nanoparticle size. A portion of these will go through a P100 respirator filter. So she does NOT need a respirator, she needs a very good chemistry fume hood or glove box.
2. These pigments involve particulate lead, cadmium, mercury and cobalt, all of which have TLVs below 0.05 mg/m3, so NIOSH says you need a cartridge respirator and the works. You can't get by with some kind of volunteer program use here. This is serious stuff.
And furthermore: You need to know that if there is a spill of the powdered pigments, you could be looking at professional abatement. I've seen that happen twice in art museum conservation labs. I helped with one of these. Let's look next at the pigments:
Mars Black - may contain manganese as a significant impurity,
Lead White - basic lead sulfate usually with barium sulfate impurities and other schmutz
Flake White - basic lead carbonate usually with zinc oxide impurities
Titanium White - synthetic is pretty pure. mineral TiO2 is very impure with impurities depending on the source -- a listed carcinogen
Vermillion - mercuric sulfate mostly
Alizarin crimson - 1,2-dihydroxyanthraquinone (analogous to the listed carcinogen 1,8-dihydroxyanthraquinone) Natural sources are very impure
Naples yellow - Should be lead antimonite, but has often been substituted by the art paint industry by all kinds of mixtures
Cadmium yellow- should be cadmium zinc sulfide, but you should check
Ultramarine blue - the only safe pigment you have here. - an artificial mineral of sodium, aluminum and silica
Cobalt blue should be various oxides of cobalt and aluminum or cobalt aluminate.
So here's what I see as the procedures:
Step one -- find out what the pigments REALLY are to start with. She should not rely on what the seller says unless he is providing a batch analysis and particle size distribution graph. In the area of art pigments, no supplier is also the manufacturer. And many pigments are made in 3rd world countries.
Step two -- She should be required FIRST to read the following if you want a student who can give INFORMED consent:
* basic information about the toxicity of lead, cadmium, cobalt, mercury, etc., the routes of entry, the works. Lead is also a skin absorber.
* Read the NIOSH Bulletin on titanium dioxide and why it is now listed as a carcinogen by NIOSH and IARC
* Read the OSHA fact sheet on nano particles
Step three -- get thee to a well equipped lab with a fume hood. Once the powdered pigments are mixed with oil, the grinding and mulling processes can be done on the bench with incredibly good hygiene, gloves, and clean up.
Step four -- Before she starts work, you need to write a risk assessment for the experiment for both the student's risks and the environmental risk of a potential spill of the powdered materials.
Unless this chemistry student is working toward a career in art conservation (and most conservation students now get chemistry degrees first), she should not be encouraged to do this project. This recent fad to return to the old master's techniques using hazardous pigments and grinding your own paints is being pushed by a few uninformed macho artists and backed by sellers of these pigments (e.g. Kremmer and Natural Pigments). It is a BAD idea since none of the schools and none of the practicing artists' studios are equipped to handle these materials safely. If this project encourages artists to do this same dumb thing, I have a problem with her project.
If instead, she has her eye on a career in paintings conservation, I'll be glad to talk to her and help her with the next step.
Monona Rossol, M.S., M.F.A., Industrial Hygienist
President: Arts, Crafts & Theater Safety, Inc.
Safety Officer: Local USA829, IATSE
181 Thompson St., #23
New York, NY 10012 212-777-0062
From: Kevin Burns <Kevin.Burns**At_Symbol_Here**ALVERNIA.EDU>
To: DCHAS-L <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**MED.CORNELL.EDU>
Sent: Sat, Mar 1, 2014 6:54 am
Subject: [DCHAS-L] Art Safety--Respirator--Pigments
I have a chemistry student that is looking to do a research project around paint pigments. Essentially they want to look at the elemental content of the pigments using LIBS. The first step in the process is "pigment grinding" using the pigments, linseed oil and a etched glass plate.
The art professor she is reviewing this project with mentioned to me that she will need to wear a respirator even before I have begun to look into the details of this project.
Bone Black, Mars Black, Lead White, Flake White, Titanium White, Vermilion, Alizarin Crimson, Naples Yellow, Cadmium Yellow, Ultramarine blue, Cobalt Blue
Can anyone offer advice or suggestions?
Kevin Burns, NRCC-CHO
Director of Laboratory Services & Safety
Certified Chemical Hygiene Officer
PEMA-Basic Certification--Emergency Management Staff
Alvernia University:O'Pake Science Center:Office 216
(P) 610-790-2865:(F) 610-790-2866:(Mobile) 570-237-6415
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"Teach, Learn and Practice Science Safely"
NAOSMM--National Association of Scientific Materials Managers--member since 2007
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