I’m talking toxicity versus environmentally friendly and how to read labels. Above are three labels: Golden’s “AP Nontoxic”, Gamblin’s information label stated clearly, and an older tube of Cotman Cadmiun Red that shows a Health Label requiring no labeling (again, this is old, but you still find these today, especially if you have an old stash; today this would probably have an AP Nontoxic label.) Windsor Newton has an excellent page on health labels and how to read them.
Why should you care? Children and pets can die from toxic products, and toxic products going into water systems and dumps messes with our Eco-system. If you use your fingers, lick you brush tip (argh), or have a water well, then toxic products will impact you quickly.
In the right image, are three watercolor tubes:
- The top, Daniel Smith Genuine Hematite is a labeled AP Non-toxic, and conforms to “ASTM D 4236.” this is a designation that they have full disclosure on what parts may be toxic, and are generally non-toxic, with possible exceptions (see below.)
- Environmentally friendly (as labeled on the Daniel Smith watercolor, center left in the image, right) is not a legal distinction, but a promise that this is a step in the right direction. To an unscrupulous company, it can be a marketing ploy to get you to think this is a “green” product. When a product says it is environmentally friendly, like the Daniel Smith Yellow Iron Oxide, I tend to become curious. I check out the specs, often set as a link to the MSDS (MATERIAL SAFETY DATA SHEET) to see whether the company is actually living up to its promise. You should get to know what an MSDS is, and overcome any discomfort with not understanding what it is saying. You will understand the important aspects, like the hazards (most people ignore them to their peril), disposal information, handling and interactive chemical data, and toxic ingredients, if any. Starting on page 5 of their MSDS, Daniel Smith lists all their products, and notes the ones that contain nickel, copper, and cobalt. If you have small children or live on a well, you might want to avoid these colors, or dispose of their water differently. In Daniel Smith’s case, their commitment to full disclosure is apparent. This is not so with many other products.
- The last image is of a VERY old Windsor Newton Manganese Blue. It is quite toxic, and you do not want it in your well. I bought two tubes 25 years ago, before I knew about manganese. I happened to be reading about Golden’s approach to paint-making, and read that manganese was toxic. I only now am using the paint, and use a separate water container for rinsing, a small herbal jar that caps, and allow it to dry. When I am through with the color I will dispose of the tube and the dry rinse jar through the dump with full disclosure. BTW, I wrote to W/N asking about the level of toxicity of Manganese Blue, and the rep was quite casual in his reply that he didn’t think it was very toxic. Hmmm; buyer beware.
I tend to cut through the worry about toxicity and green products by supporting companies that are committed to the environment and and artist’s health. At present I am committed to Golden acrylic paints, Gamblin oil paints, and Daniel Smith watercolors.
Environmental also is about the waste involved. I am looking for an alternative to Pitt pens, which I LOVE, because of the plastic waste. If I can find a good refillable alternative I will let go of them, especially in the colors of black and sepia, which I use constantly, drawing.
I wrote to Faber-Castell regarding the toxicity of their Pitt pens, because I tend to move the color with my fingertips. Their MSDS is in German or Austrian! they responded, non-toxic! Yah!
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