Don’t Drink the Turpentine!

Turpentine, Turpenoid and Linseed Oil © Karen Dalziel

4Culture and the Local Hazardous Waste Management Program in King County (LHWMP) are excited to announce a new partnership. Our agencies will be working together on a variety of initiatives, some of which will roll out in early 2013.

For starters, we will be hosting a series of free and informative workshops focused on Hidden Hazards in the Arts – the first session is scheduled for January 10th (scroll to the end of this post for additional details). Dave Waddell, the program’s coordinator, along with regional artists working in a variety of disciplines, will be contributing testimonials to Blog4Culture and we will be commissioning a number of artist-designed public service announcements about hazardous waste.

Don’t Drink the Turpentine!

Aaron knew better than to drink turpentine; he was an EMT before he became an artist and painting instructor. But he did drink it – in front of 45 oil painting students.

Here’s his story from a recent Hidden Hazards in the Arts Workshop:

Easels were set up, the model was properly dressed and located, my large canvas was prepared, my oil paints were ready on my palette and a small mason jar of turpentine sat on the floor nearby for cleaning my brushes.

People filed in, the room warmed up and things got off to a smooth start. I began sweating and decided to get some lemonade from the cooler in the back. I poured it into a glass, took a swig and went back to work. As time went by, I got thirsty, reached down to grab the lemonade and, you guessed it, grabbed the jar of turpentine instead. By the third swallow I realized what had happened, though no one else had.

I set the jar down and ran out of the room to a sink and began drinking water furiously. I didn’t want to get my stomach pumped, so no call to 9-1-1, but I knew I needed to act quickly. I ran to the studio kitchen, opened the refrigerator and grabbed a jug of milk and started chugging it. I started burping like crazy and realized that I’d better stay away from flames and lit cigarettes unless I wanted to become a human flame thrower.

Pretty soon I began vomiting up the toxic stew in my belly and, after a few days, was none the worse for wear other than a really sore throat, upset stomach and feeling like an idiot.

If an EMT can accidentally drink poison, this could happen to you. Hearing his story, the artists in the workshop came up with these safety practices:

    1. Never eat or drink when you’re working with art materials. It’s too easy to contaminate your food.
    2. If you’re going to transfer a product to a secondary container, label that container BEFORE you fill it.
    3. Safer labels include the name of the product AND the primary hazard warning on the original container (toxic, flammable).
    4. Use a less toxic compound, like olive oil, to clean your brushes. It won’t poison you if you drink it.

The Art Chemical Hazards Project works with artists to help them find ways to create vibrant work without endangering their health (or their family’s) while protecting the environment.

–        Dave Waddell

Save these dates for the Hidden Hazards in the Arts Workshop Series @ 4Culture:

Thursday, January 10, 12-2pm
Chemical hazards in jewelry, metalsmithing, and printmaking (especially intaglio)

Thursday, March 14, 6-8pm
Chemical hazards in painting (aerosol spray paint, oil, water, acrylic), encaustic, pastels and adhesives (fixatives, glues, pastes)

Thursday, May 9, 12-2pm
Chemical hazards in studio glass (glass blowing, slumping, fusing, grinding, etching and polishing)

To attend (or host!) a workshop, ask a question or share a story about your encounters with chemical hazards, email Dave Wadell or call 206-263-3069.