Sunday, September 28, 2014

Required Reading

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As a general rule, I am not an alarmist. I've been known to roll my eyes at the latest Robbie the Robot "Warning! Warning!" alert. I tire of the sidebars in magazine articles about safety practices for techniques that in my estimation are NOT that dangerous, viewing them as the proverbial CYA of our litigious society. However, when I saw this book show up in an Artist Daily e-newsletter, the brief description led me to believe I really should take a look at it, if only for the chapter on fiberarts. Probably all libraries have a copy of it, as mine did, so no excuses - find a copy and read the introduction if nothing else - just not at bedtime. This is nightmare inducing stuff.

Hazardous materials lurking in my cupboard

I know what you're thinking - I just work with fabric and thread, nothing hazardous there. Well, a lot of these hazards depend on how much exposure you have to them, how many hours a day or days a week you work around them. You probably don't have to worry about lung problems from breathing in loose fibers like dedicated spinners do. But if you doubt you breath in fibers at all, just look at what builds up in your sewing machine from cotton thread and fabric. And I've recently found out from another source that cotton fabric naturally harbors several types of mold which may trigger allergies and asthma in some people. But beyond that, are you using any spray adhesives like 505 Spray Baste? Protecting your finished art quilts with UV or stain repellant products? Do you do as the instructions say and use these in a well ventilated area - probably outside as the common household does not have the sort of vent fan strong enough to remove the toxic nature of some of these products? I've gotten pretty lax about that, having set up a place in a spare bathroom to do my spraying when the weather doesn't cooperate. After reading the section relevant to this issue, I checked to see if anything I was using contained any of the very hazardous ingredients, and sure enough, many did. I've been risking my health with my shortcut methods of "safe" use. Luckily, I don't use these regularly, but when I do, I should be more careful - some effects are reversible, others build over time and are not. When there is a choice, one should pick a non-aerosol which reduces what might get suspended in the air to be breathed in.

Shiva Paintstix & solvents

But there's more to consider. Many of us have started playing with surface design methods, dabbling with paints and screen printing, dyeing and discharge, sketching and using markers and embellishing with unusual materials - areas most of us have little or no training in. Now, I've always been very good about masking up and using gloves when I mix dye powder into solution. Again, if you ever doubt that those powders could travel far, far enough to get up your nose, just put a damp paper towel or piece of fabric on your work surface and see what happens as you spoon your powder into your container. I was truly amazed the first time I did this - those particles really travel. But I've never worried much about fumes from bleach, paint thinners, adhesive sprays fixatives or glues but I should. Do you use Shiva Paintstix? They are oil based you know - smell so that I double bag mine when not in use. Brushes don't clean up with soap and water, like the more forgiving  acrylic paints which are relatively safe, but need a solvent like turpentine. Ooo - a big no no, apparently. Fortunately, when I went shopping, Turpenoid was what was on the shelf. It is odorless and relatively safe to use. Ditto with the acetone I bought to thin my favorite glue. But still, these need to be used carefully. And really, I should probably use gloves more than I do, as some of these hazardous materials can get into your body through the skin. I've also noted a trend among some art quilters to use house paint to achieve the effects they desire. I was quite surprised to find it too has its hazards.

So now I'm a little more aware of my materials, what to look for and how to safely use them. I hope you will read up on this so you will be safe too. 


The Inside Stori said...

WOW....thank you for the info and incentive to read the labels......

Chris said...

Lots to think about. And I am also guilty of taking shortcuts!

Lucia Sasaki said...

Hi Sheila, thanks for your post.
I have been using a not so stinking solving when I work in my marbling sessions, but even these kind of substitutes may be hazardous.
Thanks for sharing!!

Michele Matucheski said...

Thanks, for this post, Sheila. I'm a hospital Librarian by day, and I will purchase a copy of this book and add it to our consumer health collection. Lots of things we don't even think about put us at risk ...