Some art supplies, like glues and markers

From the Editors of E/The Environmental Magazine

Some art supplies, like glues and markers, can be quite toxic, especially to children. Are there eco- and health-friendly alternatives out there?

—Frances Goulart, Austin, TX

An excellent resource on the potential toxicity of art supplies is the Art and Creative Materials Institute (ACMI). ACMI also maintains a certification process through which materials and ingredients are inspected and then approved or rejected by a toxicology team. The group’s seal of approval certifies that a product “contains no material in sufficient quantities to be toxic or injurious to humans, including children, or to cause acute or chronic health problems.”

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Labeling of Hazardous Art Materials Act was signed into federal law in 1988, stipulating that all art materials be reviewed for toxicity. Those products found to pose a chronic health threat are to be clearly labeled, while non-hazardous materials are marked “conforms to ASTM D-4236.” The federal government has long required labeling of acutely toxic art supplies (those which could cause immediate harm). Concerned consumers can also request a detailed “Material Safety Data Sheet” for a specific product from a retailer or manufacturer.

A number of companies also provide environmentally friendly art materials. Eco House’s paints and wood finishes are all free of aromatic and chlorinated hydrocarbons, which are potentially problematic. D”UVA Fine Artists Materials produces powder-based acrylics that use heat as a fixative, replacing the need for conventional aerosol-based spray fixatives, which often rely on flammable, potentially toxic and ozone-destroying chemicals.

CONTACT: Eco House, (506) 366-3529, www.eco-house.com; D”UVA Fine Artists Materials, (877) 277-8374, www.lithocoal.com; Art and Creative Materials Institute, (781) 293-4100, www.acminet.org