From: James Saccardo <James.Saccardo**At_Symbol_Here**CSI.CUNY.EDU>
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] heavy metals in art studio paints
Date: Thu, 20 Feb 2020 22:17:56 +0000
Reply-To: ACS Division of Chemical Health and Safety <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**PRINCETON.EDU>
Message-ID: 0848806d16f74b9186bfe38a7172be40**At_Symbol_Here**CSI-EX03.FLAS.CSI.CUNY.EDU
In-Reply-To <934671031.6462.1582234873218**At_Symbol_Here**>


Thank you for your response. I was actually thinking of you when I wrote this and even thought to mention you in the original post. It is still early, but I have not had any responses, perhaps everyone else is thinking the same thing, this is Monona's department.

While I did mention beryllium, I think I meant to say Bismuth (as in bismuth orthovanadate or bismuth vanadium oxide). I was on so many artist forums my head is spinning. But If I see any beryllium pigments, I will let you know.

As for the thinners, they use Utrecht odorless thinners which Utrecht lists as combustible, although they state the flashpoint at 110F (43C) and the explosive limits 0.7 to 5.0%. One of the Faculty agrees with me that they do not need thinners, but one does not. It is Stoddard and petroleum distillates which has its own PEL. We watch and make sure they never have more than a liter in any one place at any given time. If we can get the cadmium out, perhaps we can get the thinners out too.

Be well,




From: ACS Division of Chemical Health and Safety <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**PRINCETON.EDU> On Behalf Of Monona Rossol
Sent: Thursday, February 20, 2020 4:41 PM
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] heavy metals in art studio paints


Have you got a week?   There's so much to say.  But since I deal with CUNY regularly, I can tell you that the root of the problem is the failure of PESH to require regular hazcom training for your art faculty so when you talk to these people they don't even understand the definitions of the terms you use.  


You are very right about undergrads not needing the cadmium yellows, selenium reds, chrome pigments, lead pigments, mercuric sulfide red, or any of that stuff.  They are teaching principles.  And they can do it with the organic pigments (with training about the benzidines and other pigments that have other hazards).


The Rhode Island School of Design has lists of approved materials and the RCRA pigments are only allowed for faculty work and grad students with quantity limits.  But their reason is they discharge to the Narragansett Bay and can't even wash brushes under the tap without exceeding Bay Authority limits.


CUNY art classrooms also do not have exhaust ventilation at rates consistent with each student having an open container of paint thinners at their easel and a canvas whose surface is full of solvent evaporating. They shouldn't even be using solvent oil paints when there are water-washable oil paints and many other solvent-free products like acrylics they should be using instead.  Teachers need to understand that their product is NOT great artwork.  It is education. There is no lesson they can teach that is worth even a day of these student's lives or good health.


Contact me off-line and I'll send you a whole unedited chapter on art painting from a book that will be released later this year.  There is also a chart in it with about 250 art pigments and what is known/not known about their toxicity.  You mentioned beryllium as a metal in pigments.   If you know of any new pigment containing actual beryllium I would LOVE to know about it.  I know of an auto paint called beryllium orange, but it is not made with beryllium.  There are some beryllium colors in glass, but these are not common.  But the paint industry is always full of surprises and I'm on earth to learn.






-----Original Message-----
From: James Saccardo <James.Saccardo**At_Symbol_Here**CSI.CUNY.EDU>
Sent: Thu, Feb 20, 2020 3:00 pm
Subject: [DCHAS-L] heavy metals in art studio paints

Greetings to all,

I am interested in hearing any opinions or any measures taken by art studios to refrain or prevent the use of heavy metal (i.e. RCRA 7 metals) pigments in art studios.


In an undergraduate painting studio, they have been using reds and yellows that contain cadmium and/or cadmium seleniosulfide. Cadmium and selenium are both RCRA metals. Some years ago, I recognized that the spent tubes contained a significant amount of residual paint and testing revealed that when discarded, these quasi empty tubes did not pass TCLP and were thirty times over the regulatory limit.


These paints (linseed oil based) are purchased by students taking the course at the direction of the Faculty member. There is no mention of the toxicity level or that there are cadmium free alternatives that were not available several years ago. Students purchase, use, and abandon or discard the paint in the art lab. Heavy metal hazards are not discussed and paintings produced with these paints may be taken home, etc. The thinners that are used do not flash, but I am guessing with all of the reds and yellows, it may also carry D codes.


I have looked into the alternatives and they do not contain any RCRA metals, although they do tradeoff for other metals such as zinc and beryllium.


I have approached the department and asked them to prohibit paints containing heavy metals and only use alternative paints only to receive the response that the alternatives (that the industry has worked so hard to produce at the same cost) do not have the  "tinting power" as the cadmium containing pigments. Yes, so I am sitting here wondering how can I convince them not to use heavy metal pigments in a 100 level undergraduate course (at the risk of having less tinting power) and that the health of the college community as a whole is more important than tinting strength.


Therefore, I'd be interested in hearing any success stories for an artist program that prohibits paint pigments with heavy metals or compelling justification for requiring the department to switch to alternatives.



James (not an artist)




--- For more information about the DCHAS-L e-mail list, contact the Divisional membership chair at membership**At_Symbol_Here** Follow us on Twitter **At_Symbol_Here**acsdchas

--- For more information about the DCHAS-L e-mail list, contact the Divisional membership chair at membership**At_Symbol_Here** Follow us on Twitter **At_Symbol_Here**acsdchas

Previous post   |  Top of Page   |   Next post

The content of this page reflects the personal opinion(s) of the author(s) only, not the American Chemical Society, ILPI, Safety Emporium, or any other party. Use of any information on this page is at the reader's own risk. Unauthorized reproduction of these materials is prohibited. Send questions/comments about the archive to
The maintenance and hosting of the DCHAS-L archive is provided through the generous support of Safety Emporium.