There is no such thing as non-toxic printmaking. Even the most benign chemicals can be toxic to some individuals, and their toxicity is often determined by dose. As Paracelsus said, “the dose makes the poison”. We can strive to use the safest materials possible, and we can become informed consumers. Nonetheless, it is important to use protection when necessary.
Harmful chemicals can enter the body through ingestion (swallowing), inhalation (breathing) and absorption (skin contact). Protection falls into three major categories: Ventilation (getting the airborne fumes out of the workspace before you breath them) ,Respirators (protecting you from breathing dust and fumes you can’t ventilate), Gloves, Aprons and other protective garments (protecting you from absorption through the skin).
Here are some important things to keep in mind:
- Never eat in the studio. You risk ingesting chemical dust and debris that are on the work surfaces and tools.
- Select the proper protective gear for the task and materials
- Not all gloves protect from everything. Choose the correct glove for the materials you use. (latex gloves can cause allergies in some people)
- It is important to make sure your respirator is appropriate for the fumes and dust you are trying to avoid, and that it is fitted correctly. Air gaps around the edges is an obvious sign that you are not wearing a well-fitted respirator.
- Keep your protective gear clean.