Respiratory Hazards

Airborne hazardous materials are often among the most dangerous. The respiratory (breathing) system is very susceptible to injuries that can lead to a lifetime of breathing problems. Solvents, metal fumes, pigment dusts and other hazardous materials can not only harm your respiratory system, but may also quickly pass through the lungs and affect other parts of the body.

Seriously reconsider using materials hazardous by inhalation. If elimination or substitution is not possible, then carefully plan your use and control of these hazards. Make sure these control systems are a part of your general safety routine.

Guidelines for preventing exposure to respiratory hazards:

    •    Do not eat, drink, smoke, apply makeup or chew gum in the work area.

    •    Dusts should always be wet-mopped, never swept. Sweeping can place dusty materials and hazards back into the air.

    •    Dusty work surfaces should be wet-mopped daily to prevent dust from drying and becoming airborne later.

    •    Cement floors should be sealed with commercial cement sealers or paint to make cleanup easier.

    •    Highly toxic clay, lead, and other types of dust require a special High Efficiency vacuum system, known as a HEPA. Very fine dust particles can easily escape from normal or industrial vacuum cleaner bags and be recycled into your air supply.

    •    Make sure your ventilation system is appropriate for your level of airborne hazards, and keep it well-maintained. See the Ventilation section for more information.

This article was originally printed for Art Hazard News, © copyright Center for Safety in the Arts 1993. 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.