Safety Risks from Art Materials For certain chemicals and exposure situations, children may be especially susceptible to the risk of injury. For example, since children are smaller than adults, children’s exposures to the same amount of a chemical may result in more severe effects. Further, children’s developing bodies, including their brains, nervous systems, and lungs may make them more susceptible than adults. Differences in metabolism may also affect children’s responses to some chemicals. Children‘s behaviors and cognitive abilities may also influence their risk. For example, children under the age of 12 are less able to remember and follow complex steps for safety procedures, and are more impulsive, making them more likely to ignore safety precautions. Children have a much higher chance of toxic exposure than adults because they are unaware of the dangers, not as concerned with cleanliness and safety precautions as adults, and are often more curious and attracted to novel smells, sights, or sounds. Children need regular and consistent reminders of safety rules, and there is no substitute for direct supervision.
Guidelines for Selecting Art and Craft Materials Here are some helpful reminders about choosing art materials for children:
Note that even products labeled ‘non-toxic’ when used in an unintended manner can have harmful effects.
Products with cautionary/warning labels should not be used with children under age 12.
Avoid solvents and solvent-based supplies, which include turpentine, paint thinner, shellac, and some glues, inks, and a few solvent-containing permanent markers.
Avoid products or processes that produce airborne dust that can be inhaled (including powdered tempera paint).
Avoid old supplies, unlabeled supplies, and be wary of donated supplies with cautionary/warning labels and that do not contain the statement “Conforms to ASTM D4236.”
Look for products that are clearly labeled with information about intended uses.
Give special attention to students with asthma or allergies, which may elevate the students’ sensitivities to fumes, dust, or products that come into contact with the skin.
Gather your supplies beforehand so that you can continue to supervise their use without needing to step away.
Instruct children on safety practices before you begin (such as, modeling how to cut safely with scissors).
Do activities in well-ventilated areas.
Use protective equipment (such as smocks).
Assume that anything you use should be safe enough that it won’t harm children if it gets on their skin or in their mouths and/or eyes.