Sunday, June 29, 2008

The studio - Environmental Impact Study

A while ago I had begun to feel the twinges of guilt about my studio waste, so I had called the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corp (Johnston Landfill) to ask about it. They did not seem too concerned about oil painting rags, but it still bothered me.

So today I went over my oil colors to try to identify which of them might pose an environmental hazard. Of the couple of dozen colors that I use, I was glad to see that there seems to be only one element I need to worry about, and that's lead. I had always assumed that the cadmium in all my reds and yellows was bad, but in researching it, I stumbled on this information on Chroma's site.
• The most important of these is the range of yellow, orange and red pigments based on cadmium, which is a toxic heavy metal and is regarded by the California regulators as a possible carcinogen.
• Modern cadmium pigments use a coating technology which “locks in” the harmful pigment particles, and renders them relatively inert and harmless.
ACMI, the regulator which sets the rules for warning labels on artists paint has rated cadmium colours “AP non-toxic” because of the coating.
I use Windsor and Newton cadmiums though, so I went on their site and it seemed to confirm Chroma's information

Not regarded as dangerous to the environment
That leaves only the lead based paints, Titanium white and naples yellow. The news from Windsor and Newton wasn't as good...
Dangerous to the environment. May cause long-term adverse effects in the aquatic environment.
If I can find an alternative to my lead based colors it will save me trips to the Johnston Landfill, but as yet I haven't found a white that is lead free, and Naples Yellow will be a hard pigment to give up. I love both for their covering power, which I'm sure is due to the lead. So I'll continue my research. Meanwhile, I'm storing my paint rags, I'll probably need to take at least one trip to the Johnston Landfill until I find alternatives.

In the meantime I got a tip from my friend and founder of R.I.'s best online magazine about the environment, about a good booklet from the Narragnsett Bay Commission specifically addressing artist studios. Check it out.

PRACTICES for Environmental, Health & Safety


  1. Hi Kathy,
    I wouldn't sweat the small stuff so much, and be careful how you store those oily rags (I'm sure you know about that though). Great blog!
    --Chris (your brother :-) )

  2. Do you know if there is any special way of getting rid of turpenoid (10% turpentine)?

  3. Hi Laura,

    I've seen conflicting standards on how to dispose of turpentine. Some suggest you take it to a hazardous waste collection point, which is probably the best method. But I've also seen advice on just letting it evaporate and disposing of it in regular household trash. I believe it can be biodegradable, the danger is in what might encounter it before it biodegrades. Do not pour it down the drain (like I remember doing in art school).

    I would also be concerned with whatever it is you dissolved into the Turpanoid (the sludge), and what else is in the Turpanoid itself. I use Turpanoid Natural and do not use oils with toxic materials, that way I can dispose of the sludgy mess in the trash, which makes life much easier.


I value your comments, please let me know what you think!

Related Posts with Thumbnails