Safety & the Ceramics Arts
All practitioners, manufacturers and purchasers of ceramics and pottery share a common concern for the safe use of ceramic materials. Safety is not only defined by laws and regulations but by common sense and good studio practices. We hope the information provided here, as well as links to external resources, will help with your understanding of regulations and risks associated with ceramic activity.
- Product Hazards
- Types - health, environmental, physical
- Health Hazards - classes and defintions, root of entry into the body
- Toxicity - materials evaluation, chronic vs acute (IARC, NTP) 4 classes of hazards by IARC; monographs
- Understanding Risk - presence factored against exposure, dosage
- Laws and Regulations
- CPSIA 2008/Certificates of Compliance
- Prop 65
- Lead and Cadmium Leach guidelines
- Product Labels
- Hazard Communication Plan
- Certificates of Compliance
- Best Practices
- Maintaining a Safe Studio
- Ceramic Safety in the Classroom
- Mayco Technical Support
Types of Hazards
Product Hazards can be generally defined accordingly:
- Physical - chemical properties such as combustibility, explosiveness, flammability, oxidizing, and/or unstable or reactive.
- Environmental - immediate or direct on environment on ecosystem; latent/indirect effect on environment and human life.
- Health - immediate (acute) or latent (chronic) impact on the human body
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The classification of health hazards provided below is derived from OSHA's hazardous communications law (29 CFR Ch. XVII, Section 1910.1200, pp. 474-475):
- Carcinogen: A chemical that has been evaluated by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) or National Toxicology Program (NTP) and found to be a carcinogen or potential carcinogen;
- Corrosive: A chemical that causes visible destruction of, or irreversible alterations in, living tissue by chemical action at the site of contact;
- Highly toxic: A chemical that is lethal at minor dosages via oral ingestion, skin contact or inhalation;
- Irritant: A chemical, which is not corrosive, but which causes a reversible inflammatory effect on living tissue by chemical action at the site of contact;
- Sensitizer: A chemical that causes a substantial proportion of exposed people or animals to develop an allergic reaction in normal tissue after repeated exposure to the chemical;
- Toxic: A chemical that is lethal in larger dosages than those listed for highly toxic chemicals;
- Target organ effects: A chemical that causes harmful effects to specific body organs.
The two most common human health hazards you'll see listed for a ceramic material (on the label or SDS) are "carcinogen" and "irritant." There are a few Mayco non fired products (Translucent Oil-Based Stains, Twinkles Oil-Based Stains, and Touch ‘N Glo Wax Metallic Stains) that contain solvents, which could be "toxic" if ingested.
Irritants normally carry an acute warning whereas carcinogens normally bear chronic warnings. The definitions of acute and chronic toxicity are:
- Acute Toxicity – an adverse reaction will occur within hours or days. An acute reaction might result in symptoms such as a skin rash, irritation to your eyes, or immediate sickness.
- Chronic Toxicity – an adverse reaction that will occur over time (months or years). A substance that causes cancer is chronically toxic.
Routes of entry refers to the method a ceramic material might take into a human body. The four most prevalent: inhalation, absorption through skin, absorption through the eyes, ingestion via the mouth.
Laws & Regulations
There are many laws and regulations that affect ceramic materials, ceramic ware and ceramic activity. One way to try to make sense of them all is to group them according to topic and place of use. We provide some perspectives below:
- Raw Materials
- Product Communications
- Product Labels: the law LHAMA; the enforcing agency - CPSC
- Product Testing Verification (Certificates of Compliance): the law CPSIA; the enforcing agency - CPSC
- Food Safe Surfaces: the law Leach Test; the enforcing agency FDA
- Retail Studios
- LHAMA, CPSIA, FDA - Leach Standards, Depts. of Health - student safety(schools)
- Manufacturer - OSHA - MSDS, Workplace Safety
Various government agencies define and address hazards, with law or policy, according to their purview. The EPA, CPSC, OSHA, Dept. of Agriculture (FDA), DOT are some of the agencies providing regulations that impact ceramic materials and their use. In the section below, Laws & Regulations, we review the major agencies and laws relating to ceramics.
General Certificates of Compliance
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Key resources used to create the information used in this article: