Notebook, 1993-



One can distinguish between noxious and poisonous colors. Powder pigments or watercolors are more reactive and are therefore more dangerous than pigments ground in oil; hence watercolors have warning labels on their wrappers wherever necessary. The word Caution can be found on flake white, chrome yellow, etc. "Poison" labels are required by law on emerald green [also called Paris green or vert anglais, a compound containing copper and arsenic], and on cobalt violet [which contains cobalt and arsenic]. In Germany the law even demands that dealers keep them under lock and key. Methyl dyes can cause blindness, but this is of no great importance to artists who avoid these in any case because of their unstable nature; indelible pencils, which contain these dyes, are also dreaded for their tendency to bleed. The painting trade has certain rules concerning the handling of lead colors. Even these are of little interest to artists. One should just [p. 65] make sure that cuts and wounds are not contaminated with lead colors and avoid breathing pigment dust when handling powder colors. The author has himself experienced acute painters' colic; although unpleasant, it is not dangerous. Chronic poisoning only occurs in large factories and should be prevented by special precautions. Copper arsenate poisoning was once common among scene painters in theaters. Opinions have changed recently on the toxicity of vermilion. Special care should be taken that paint boxes for schools and children's paint sets do not contain noxious colors.

In Germany special laws apply to the handling of noxious pigments. These distinguish between three groups of toxic substances. Group 1 being the most poisonous. Toxicity ratings, according to these groups, are given in the List of Pigments unless the harmlessness is explicitly stated. [pp. 65-66]

[Wehlte, Kurt. The Materials and Techniques of Painting. Translated by Ursus Dix. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company. 1975.]



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