Editorial: Labeling on Children's Art Supplies

The safety of art materials used by children is of major concern to parents, teachers, art material manufacturers, and others responsible for children's health and well-being. 

The review of the safety of children's art materials by the California Department of Health Services is a crucial first step. This is the first time that children's art materials have been evaluated by a government agency.  The results of the study verify our position that the safety of art materials should not be addressed solely by a voluntary standard, but should be part of mandatory regulation on the part of appropriate government agencies.

The CP/AP non-toxic label of the Arts and Crafts Materials Institute has been around since the 1940's and this program has prevented numerous acute poisonings in children during that period.  However, the audit of the ACMI program by the California Department of Health Services has revealed serious shortcomings, especially with respect to chronic hazards.  Hopefully these problems will be remedied soon.

One point of contention between California Department of Health Services and the Arts and Crafts Materials Institute is the use of the CP/AP label for art materials which might be non-toxic but should not be used by children for other reasons.  For example, many oil paints carry the AP/CP seal.  In support of the California position, we do not believe that oil paints should be used by children because hazardous turpentine or mineral spirits are commonly used both during painting and for cleanup.

Since parents and schools might rely on the CP/AP label to determine whether to buy certain art materials for their children, this label should only be used on art materials recommended for children.  A separate non-toxic label associated with the HL (Health Label) seal of the Arts and Crafts Materials Institute was formerly used to indicate non-toxic adult art materials.  We believe that the ACMI should resume this practice.

Art Hazard News, Volume 11, No. 8, 1988

This article was originally printed for Art Hazard News, © copyright Center for Safety in the Arts 1988. It appears on nontoxicprint courtesy of the Health in the Arts Program, University of Illinois at Chicago, who have curated a collection of these articles from their archive which are still relevant to artists today.