Arte Es Vida


Safety Issues WIth Polymer Clay by arteesvida
December 21, 2006, 9:00 pm
Filed under: Clay Jewelry

While polymer clay looks and acts like porous clay, it is actually polyvinyl-choloride (PVC) mixed with binders than burn off when the clay is cured. The hydrochloride gas that is released when the clay burns, can smell nasty but is also considered completely non-toxic. Studies by the Arts and Crafts Materials Institute and the Duke Occupational Health Services (links are available at the bottom of this article) show that even ingested, the clay won’t make you ill.

So what is all the fuss about?

While polymer clay is certified as a non-toxic substance, there has been a lot of discussion in recent years about important “better safe than sorry” precautions that many artisans utilize when working with the substance. The hydrochloride gas in particular can irritate mucus membranes and some people feel the effects in their eyes, noses, and throats. Some general guidelines include:

· Keeping all clay working tools clay dedicated. Many food prep tools also make great clay working tools, but it is strongly advised that once you use it for clay don’t use it again in the kitchen.

· Either use a clay dedicated oven (I use a toaster oven) or tent the curing clay with tin foil so any residual hydrochloride doesn’t collect in your oven and then redistribute on your food the next time you cook something.

· If you cure large batches on a regular basis, you accidentally burn your clay, or if the hydrochloride gas is especially irritating to you (I have this problem more with liquid polymer clay than solids) then turn off your oven and air out your home well. If you have problems consistently, consider using your toaster oven in your garage or on your back porch instead of in a common living area.

· It is best to use a dust mask and safety eyewear whenever you are drilling or sanding polymer clay so you don’t breath in the small dust particles. Another option is to drill and sand underwater which is the recommended method for drilling sand and glass!

· Request the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for the clay products you are purchasing. All of these companies will have websites and toll-free numbers and will send you the relevant MSDS at your request.

Of course there are safety issues related to all arts and crafts materials and techniques. The best book I have seen on the subject is The Artist’s Complete Health And Safety Guide By Monona Rossol. I am working on a series of articles about copper and chemicals used for the patina and etching of copper and other metals and will be referring back to this book quite often. The book is comprehensive but still easy to understand. It is a definite “must-have” for any artisan’s library!

Polymer Clay Safety Studies:

PHTHALATES IN ACMI-CERTIFIED POLYMER CLAYS

DETERMINATION OF THE MAGNITUDE OF CLAY TO SKIN AND SKIN TO MOUTH TRANSFER OF PHYLATES ASSOCIATED WITH THE USE OF POLYMER CLAYS

HAZARD RISK ASSESSMENT FROM THE USE OF POLYMER CLAYS


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