Metal Pigments used in
Paints and Inks



by Michael McCann, PhD


ANTIMONY (antimony sulfate, barium sulfate)

TOXICITY
Moderate to High, Reproductive toxin

HEALTH EFFECTS
All paths of entry; dusts and fumes irritate eyes, upper respiratory tract; known affect enzymes, heart, lungs, ingestion may cause acute digestive upset, liver, kidney damage and, in extreme exposures, possible respiratory failure, coma, death, can cause ulcers on skin and anemia

USES
Pigment inantimony white 11, Naples yellow 41, usually contaminated with arsenic, a suspected carcinogen

PRECAUTIONS
Avoid powder; prevent skin contact; symptoms with ingestion may include: metallic taste, vomiting, dirrhea, irritability, fatigue, muscular pain

ARSENIC

TOXICITY
High; Suspected carcinogen

HEALTH EFFECTS
All paths of entry; corrosive to skin, mucous membranes; peripheral nervous system, kidney damage; possible skin cancer, bone marrow damage, lung cancer

USES
A metal in pigments such as cobalt violet (cobalt arsenate); green 21 and 22: emerald green (copper acetoarsenite), Scheele’s green (copper arsenite), English, Paris, Schweinfurt, Veronese greens; and yellow 39

PRECAUTIONS
Do not use; symptoms: numbness in hands and feet; chest pain, headache, vomiting, diarhhea, coma, death

CADMIUM
(cadmium sulfide, cadmium selenide)

TOXICITY
High; Reproductive toxin; suspected carcinogen

HEALTH EFFECTS
All paths of entry, irritating to eyes, skin, respiratory tract: cough, chest pain, chills, breath shortness, weakness; ingestion: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, kidney, lung damage, anemia; associated with lung and prostate cancer

USES
Ingredient in red, orange, yellow pigments: red 108, 113; orange 20, 23; yellow 37

PRECAUTIONS
Avoid powdered and pastel pigments; wear gloves; avoid ingestion and inhalation

CHROMIUM COMPOUNDS /
CHROMIUM III (chromic oxide, chromic sulfate)

TOXICITY
Moderate to High; Reproductive toxins, Suspected carcinogen

HEALTH EFFECTS
By all routes; dermatitis, corrosive to skin, mucous membranes; respiratory irritation,lung damage; severe enteritis, fluid loss, even shock if ingested

USES
Metal in orange, yellow, green pigments

PRECAUTIONS
Avoid if possible; use local exhaust ventilation and wear gloves; avoid powdered pigments

CHROMIUM IV
(Barium, lead strontium, and zinc chromate)

TOXICITY
Suspected carcinogen

HEALTH EFFECTS
Associated with cancer

PRECAUTIONS
Avoid

COBALT
(cobalt arsenate, oxide, phosphate; potassium cabaltinitrite)

TOXICITY
Slight to Moderate

HEALTH EFFECTS
Eye, skin irritant, allergen; chronic inhalation may cause asthma, pneumonia, fibrosis; ingestion may cause vomiting; diarrhea; heart damage

USES
Ingredient in blue, green, yellow, and violet pigments; dryers

PRECAUTIONS
Avoid powdered pigments or paint sprays; wear gloves

COPPER

TOXICITY
Slight

HEALTH EFFECTS
By skin, may discolor skin, contact with eyes may cause conjunctivitis and corneal ulcers; elemental copper is poorly absorbed orally

USES
A metal in pigments

PRECAUTIONS

Avoid powdered pigments; wear gloves

LEAD COMPOUNDS

PRECAUTIONS
(lead antimoniate, lead carbonate, lead chromate, others)

TOXICITY
High, Reproductive toxin

HEALTH EFFECTS
Inhalation and ingestion are major routes that cause lead poisoning, symptoms of which are anemia, gastroenteritis, weakness, malaise, headaches, irritability, joint and muscle pain, kidney, liver, and nervous system damage; may affect neurological development in fetuses and children; accumulates in bones and tissues; children and fetuses are more susceptible to lower doses

USES
Pigment, paint ingredient: flake white, Naples yellow, chrome yellow; white 2, 4; red 103, 104, 105; orange 21, 45; yellow 34, 46; green 15; ingredient in ink dryers

PRECAUTIONS
Avoid

LEAD CARBONATE
(flake white, lead white)

TOXICITY
High

HEALTH EFFECTS
See lead compounds

USES
A pigment used in painting and primers

PRECAUTIONS
Avoid; substitute non-lead gesso paints and inks

LITHIUM
Slight to Moderate

HEALTH EFFECTS
Mild skin, eye, and mucous membrane irritant; if ingested, may cause fatigue, dizziness, and gastrointestinal upset; systemic absorbtion can cause; tremors, muscular weakness, seizures, coma, death

USES
Found in some pigments

PRECAUTIONS
Avoid inhalation of powdered pigments

MANGANESE COMPOUNDS
(manganese ammonium phosphate, dioxide, silicates; barium manganate)

TOXICITY
Moderate to High

HEALTH EFFECTS

Can irritate eyes, muous membranes, and respiratory tract; chronic inhalation can produce behavioral disturbances and a degenerative nervous system disorder resembling Parkinsonism

USES
Dryer in inks; pigment ingredient inmars brown, raw and burnt umber, manganese blue and violet; red 48; blue 33, violet 16, black 14, 26

PRECAUTIONS
Avoid; substitute cobalt linoleate as drier; wear gloves; do not use powdered pigments

MERCURY
(mercuric sulfide)

TOXICITY
High

HEALTH EFFECTS
Acute inhalation of large amounts of elemental mercury vapor may cause respiratory irritation and pulmonary edema; skin contact leads to irritation and/or sensitization; mercury salts, if acutely ingested, can cause intestinal, liver, kidney, and nervous system damage; chronic inhalation of elemental vapor, or chronic ingestion of mercury salts, can cause gum disorders, kidney damage, and permanent impairment of nervous system

USES
Pigment ingredient: vermilions, cinnabar, mercadium colors, red 106

PRECAUTIONS
Avoid all mercury compounds; vapor has no odor warning

NICKEL

TOXICITY
Moderate, Suspected Carcinogen

HEALTH EFFECTS
Common cause of severe skin allergy, chronic eczema; ingestion of salts can cause giddiness and nausea; fumes irritate respiratory tract and may cause pulmonary edema; inhalation of some nickel compounds associated with nasal and lung tumors

USES
Pigment ingredient: yellow 53, 57, green 10

PRECAUTIONS
Avoid powdered pigments and spray paints

TUNGSTEN

TOXICITY
Slight; Flammable

HEALTH EFFECTS
May irritate respiratory tract; some salts may release acid on contact with moisture; chronic exposure to tungsten carbide has been associated with lung scarring

USES
Metal used in pigments

PRECAUTIONS
Avoid powdered pigments and spray paints