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Evelyne Schoenmann

Qotw: Do You Strictly Observe The Safety Rules In Studio?

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Cough, cough.... Hi everybody!

 

I just came up from my basement studio to write this week's question. I did a few plaster molds today, and while preparing all the preventive measures, I came up with a new question: Are you all observing the safety rules 1) Exaggerated? 2) Extrem? 3) Ehm... certainly? 4) Yes (blush)? 5) Well... to a certain degree? 6) Now and then? 7) I guess....? 8) Are there safety rules in a studio?? :o ............

 

Well, I think you get the picture. Oh, speaking of picture: I did a selfie "Evelyne observing safety rules; plaster mix in the background on the table"

 

Evelyne

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post-6433-0-92322900-1440518491_thumb.jpg

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Well, when I mix my clear (now that I have room for it!!), I ALWAYS use a mask. I was stuck in my dinky old house and inhaled way too much clay dust for it to be anywhere near healthy. I never wear gloves while glazing, though. Phooey on that. :D My glazes are all pretty benign, anyway. No lusters or leaded glazes for this guinea pig! :3

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Well ... I haven't always done it in the past out of pure ignorance, but as I've learned more I started to take precautions. One of my parents' friends when I was a child was a potter and she died of lung cancer. I never connected the two things until a couple years into pottery when I found out about silicosis and then I wondered if her pottery caused the cancer?

 

If I'm doing something dusty I generally put a mask on. I don't mix any of my own glazes so that's just if I'm sanding or cleaning my floors. I will admit that sometimes I go outside and sand without a mask when the wind is carrying it away but I totally know that's a bad idea. LOL Not sure why I do it anyway, it's so lazy. I've switched over mostly to sponging things off instead of sanding because a lot of the clay I use is groggy and sanding exposes more of the graininess. I'm doing a lot more of my smoothing at other stages instead of dry so that has no dust. I only do about one kiln load a month right now so it's not like I have a constant and steady cloud of particles going into my lungs, but you can't be too careful really. I'm about to start working with stains so I know I need to shell out for an insanely expensive respirator mask before that starts. 

 

I do sometimes drink in the studio but I use a closed water bottle that I have to pop open. I very rarely eat out there and when I do, I take a plate out from the house with freshly washed hands, fully eat, then go back to work; I don't eat/work/eat/work. 

 

I don't use gloves while glazing but I'm not dipping or anything, so I very rarely get any on my hands, and I'm with Guinea, I don't use any toxic glazes anyway. When I work with stains I plan to wear gloves for sure.

 

I'm kind of bracing myself to get chewed out by the more experienced on this thread .... LOL

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I can't say I really follow them that strictly. I feel there is a lot more in modern life that is killing me quicker, especially my smoking habit, probably all the nuclear waste in the ocean and whatever crap we pollute the air with.

 

All in all my studio feels quite safe with its small amount of airborne silica.

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When I first started I kept a pretty dusty studio. I never changed my hand towel and I wore the same clothes for days on end for potting. nasty eh? Then I eventually started to learn more and I started mopping my studio every Sunday and taking a break that day until Monday. I now wet down any surfaces before I do any work on them as I don't want to get any dust into the air. I also sponge all my tables and glazing areas down every Sunday as well.

 

I didn't shave my beard for a large majority of my glaze mixing until I found some articles talking about how it was not really doing much if you have a beard. So now before I mix any glazes I always shave my face.

 

I don't wear any gloves when dipping glazes, but I never really get my hands covered in glaze. Usually the tips of my fingers at most, but after I dip, I stick fingers in a bucket of water and towel them dry between each pot. I am not sure if that is dangerous or not, but I don't see myself ever wearing gloves to work with glazes. I don't use any really nasty glaze ingredients anyways. The harshest glaze I work with is 10% Red IRON Oxide! 

 

Clay seems pretty safe as long as you follow a safety routine and not get lazy. Weekly cleaning, standard precautions and good information should keep us pretty safe.

 

Giselle, your pretty crazy for sanding anything and not wearing a mask, outside is just as dangerous as inside even with a wind, your breathing while you sand..  and a mask isn't that expensive, like 40-50 dollars. Get a mask!

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I try to follow as many of the safety rules as I can, I am sure there are loads I am unaware of. I hate wearing a respirator to sand bone dry pieces but I do it and I do it outside to limit the amount of dust floating around inside. I mostly use a sponge and water to do the final clean up on pieces but sometimes an edge needs a bit of shaping and out comes the respirator. Ugh

 

I clean, mop, and sponge all the surfaces in my studio as often as I can. It depends on what I am doing that day. If working with wet clay its a scrape with a paint scraper into reclaim and then a wet sponge off at the end of the day. If it's carving then I follow that with a mopping as well. My studio gets mopped and sponged daily or at worst weekly, depending on what I have done that week. I should state that I do pottery clean up and sanding outside and hose down the concrete porch when I am done.

 

When mixing dry glaze mixes I do it outside and wear a respirator. I use an attachment on my drill to do most of the mixing and then sieve with a rib and rubber gloves. I am still using commercial glazes which I mix and I don't think they are that dangerous but I forgot to wear gloves one time and when I washed my hands I found my hands felt extremely dry for several days so now I always wear rubber gloves for mixing.

 

When using the glazes I don't wear gloves but then I don't stick my hand all the way in the glaze either my 2 fingers at most and am always rinsing them off. When I glaze I cover the table with newspaper which when I am done I carefully roll up and throw away so any dried drips and such don't get powdered and introduced to the air.

 

My kiln is in the garage and I have a vent which runs to the outside. I still try to avoid being in there while it is running.

 

I never eat in the studio and rarely drink anything but if I do I use a closed water bottle for a sip.

 

I have a seperate apron for each activity

1) handbuilding pieces

2) wheel work

3) painting and design work

4) glazing

5) cleanup

Might be over kill but I don't want to cross contaminate anything. If I am on the wheel it's pretty messy, heck it's really messy still, and I don't want to risk having dried clay dropping into a bucket or onto a piece from my apron. I have a filter to catch clay and stuff in my sink but not on my washing machine so when it rains I hang the dirty aprons over my fence and let Mother Nature clean them up. The wheel and cleanup aprons get the dirtiest fastest so they get cleaned more often. The design one gets very little on it so it gets the least.

 

I always wear an apron to limit any clay, dust, and such on my clothes so I don't drag it through the house. I have a pair of shoes that are studio shoes and try to wear them only in the studio. I will admit to occasionally forgetting to slip them off and heading up the stairs only to realize at the top that I have to wrong shoes on. So then it's back down to switch shoes but any dust on them has most likely already been deposited on the stairs.

 

Time for complete honesty:

Things I am pretty sure I am doing wrong....

 

I have a ceiling fan that I use when it's hot and a window air conditioner I use when it's really really hot. I would like one of those super nice microbe air scrubbing air filtering exhaust fans but there is no money for that at the moment so I try to limit what I do inside hoping the invisible nasties aren't going to hang around in there.

 

I also have a small section of my worktable covered in canvas BAD BAD BAD I know but I tried removing it and the clay kept sticking to the sealed wooden table top. I am wondering if I sand off the varnish if the clay will no longer stick but have not yet tested this out. I rinse out the canvas with water quite frequently and am careful not to bang it around. If I do something on it and can smell clay dust it is too dirty and needs to be rinsed in a bucket of water and dried outside.

 

Not perfect but trying to be as careful as I can.

 

T

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When I first got into pottery it was through a friend. I imitated some really unsafe things out of beginner's ignorance. The sanding unmasked is a bad habit I picked up from that time, and though I know better now it's hard to change. I will say, I'm carefully researching everything now and not feeling it's safe to do something a certain way just because I saw it be done that way.

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I do my best to keep my glaze materials simple, largely because my kids are not to be trusted to stay out of Mommy's studio. #1 son broke a small jar of cobalt oxide on the floor once. That were a mess!

 

I don't mop as often as I should. It happens after trimming and any other task that leaves a lot of crumbs, after taking my greenware to get fired and after glazing. I work with a splash pan, so I don't get a lot of spatter. Everything gets wet wiped down at the end of a throwing session because I prefer to work clean.

 

I use a respirator for glaze mixing tasks, and don't really sand anything until after its glaze fired, but that said I have done a once-in-a-blue-moon tidy up of greenware sans mask.

 

I use tight fitting nitrile gloves (latex allergy) while glazing, not because I'm worried about a lot of absorbtion but because I've noticed some of my glazes are caustic in the bucket. Boo to chapped hands.

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I apoligize for not coming online earlier. Life and a huge migraine got in the way. Better now...

 

I see that we all are more or less strict with the safety rules (or with some of them). I myself am more the type who maybe exaggerates with safety, but that's ok with me. Although I did, once or twice, a pit fire and was throwing the wood into the fire without having a respiratory protection on.... Safety in the studio (basement in my case) is always top priority though. I heard that clay dust is one of the badest things for the lungs.

 

Thank you all for your honesty!

 

Evelyne

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Rae, I don't know if there are statistics, but you know what?.. maybe it's better not to know everything. There is never a definite answer to "is awareness helping or not". I think each person reacts different to the same danger. Take smokers for example: some die very soon of "asphalt lungs", others are chain smokers their whole life and are, at 95 years old, still kicking...

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I use gloves and respirator when using my chemical for foil saggars. And a mask for mixing glazes. I sweep up scraps off the floor regularly. Vacuum less often and mop when needed. I don't sand pieces, I use a sponge or rib when damp.

I and more concerned with safety goggles for looking into kilns when doing my alternative firing methods. I have great heat proof gloves and fireman's apron and chapps of raku and obvara.. 

My kilns are in a well vented shed but I avoid breathing fumes by having the pyrometer by the door.

Marcia

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I have never heard of manganese being linked to ALS, I have had nine relatives die of it including my mother.  It is a bad gene  in our family as is the Multiple Sclerosis I have.     Denice

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I can't say I really follow them that strictly. I feel there is a lot more in modern life that is killing me quicker, especially my smoking habit, probably all the nuclear waste in the ocean and whatever crap we pollute the air with.

 

All in all my studio feels quite safe with its small amount of airborne silica.

Hey, Joel!

Smoking and clay dust are a worse combination. Your silia in your lungs are compromised from the smoking, and then you are breathing that dust.

Are you eating a salami sandwich at the same time?

Time to get proactive. You only have one set of lungs.

TJR.

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My buddy Steve Robinson died of pancreatic Cancer two years ago. He left four children and a second wife.[divorced the first one first].He was a raku guy. Rakued outside all winter. Taught workshops. Had a following of women potters and hobbyists who loved him. Never wore a dust mask.Fired raku for 30 years.

When you go to the doctor and the oncologist says;"You have pancreatic Cancer. You have one year to live."There is nothing to say after that.

Saying;"Oh! I shoulda worn a mask doesn't cut it.

TJR.

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As much as I stand by safety precautions, some of the above posts Fall into the category of 'anecdotal evidence'. These are the bane of any scientist's life. As much as we love these tales of horrible consequences, we have to be cautious of connecting dots where no dots exist.

 

I would bet my next paycheck that not all of those teachers died horribly due to clay ... I would want to see scientific proof that ALS or pancreatic cancer is tied solely to sloppy clay practices. I will gladly be proven wrong, but you will have to show me real proof.

 

Yes, there are dangers but I have heard so many totally untrue statements of perceived dangers where none exist that we really need to stay with provable facts.

 

Don't breathe in silica dust. Use a mask when mixing, sanding, cleaning up.

Use gloves when handling chemicals.

Don't use chemicals or compounds with known, proven dangers no matter how pretty they are.

Read the safety labels and precautions on packages.

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Guest JBaymore

Chris nails it (yet once again). 

 

Anecdotal evidence is suspect.  Be wary. 

 

When people get sick... they are always looking for a "reason".  Sometimes they make incorrect conclusions.  Another factor..... people who are sick often want to remain very private about it... and do not "advertise" that fact... so you don't ever even hear about it.

 

Also there is something called in the field "genetic predisposition".  Yup..... some folks can smoke 10 packs of cigarettes a day and also drink a whole bottle of whiskey every day... and die while skydiving at the age of 104.  Others can look at a certain carcinogen... and get cancer a few months later.  (We tend to hear about the former... not the latter.)  If you don't know your personal situation in that regard...... well....... it's a crap shoot. ("Do you feel lucky, punk?"  -Dirty Harry)

 

There is a LOT of information on this H+S stuff published.  Some highly technical.  If you haven't availed yourself of the information....  you still can.

 

The three easy to read references from my ceramic toxicology section I teach at the college:

 

Arist Beware  - Dr. Michael McCann

 

Keeping Claywork Safe and Legal  - Mononna Rossol

 

The Complete Artists Heath and Safety Guide  - Mononna Rossol

 

 

Chronic manganese poisoning is linked to a condition that very closely mimics the symptoms of Parkinson's Disease.... not ALS.

 

I personally know 5 potters that have diagnosed silicosis.  They did not work in mines, changing auto brakes, and other such known risk situations.  Likely cause.... ceramics related.  100% provable.... can't be done.

 

I also know one well known long term potter with diagnosed (and being treated) lung cancer (which also can be caused by inhaled silica exposure).  But linking that case directly to ceramics is not something that medical science is able to do with 100% accuracy.   Could it be related.... yes.  Could it NOT be related.... yes.

 

I've personally had a few ceramics related occupational health issues.  This stuff happens.  Nothing fatal...... so far....... I'm still kickin'. 

 

I'm very aware of the subject and take precautions in the studio.  Basic stuff is really pretty easy to do and be effective.  I do not "seal myself in a baggie".  I also do not throw dry clay and glaze chemistry around.  This is an important subject.... but there is a lot of "hysteria" that goes around in the community about it.

 

Get yourself educated. 

 

best,

 

.....................john

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TJR I am trying to work on my smoking but I am still searching for the reason that makes me want to give up.

 

I didn't mean to come across so nonchalant about safety. I keep my studio clean but I think there is a lot more to worry about than going over the top to control the small amount of dust that can be generated in normal studio activity. 

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TJR I am trying to work on my smoking but I am still searching for the reason that makes me want to give up.

 

I didn't mean to come across so nonchalant about safety. I keep my studio clean but I think there is a lot more to worry about than going over the top to control the small amount of dust that can be generated in normal studio activity. 

If the cost doesn't make you want to give up, maybe you need to compare the yearly cost of smoking, and work out how many bags of clay/raw materials/no of firings/holidays........ you could buy instead.

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Another unintended consequence of bad science here is that our discussion pops up on the Internet and before you know it a group of concerned parents is fighting to get the 'dangerous' ceramics program out of the schools. Another safe, happy clay class ... Gone.

 

I met a potter at NCECA who tried to stop this knee ######## reaction by bringing a bag of clay to the school board meeting and eating some of it in front of them. Kaopectate anyone?

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I like what Chris said. You can go way overboard, but you can also be way to careless. The important stuff is very easy to protect against. Mop when floor is dirty, wear gloves when handling chemicals, and wear a mask when your doing any kind of dust creating activities. That's basically my rules. 

 

I have some manganese dioxide as well as Barium, and I haven't opened the bags yet. I ordered them to use for some recipes that I wanted to include on some vases, but I ended up finding alternative things that look almost as good. Why even risk a health hazard when there are so many ways to achieve similar looks. I assume if I had a better studio with some type of overheat exhaust system I wouldn't mind as bad, but I just don't want manganese dust of any kind ever floating around in my air in the garage. Just not worth it to me right now, when I have more experience under my belt, I might break into it, but for now there are so many options with the safe things that I don't feel I need to adventure any further down the rabbit hole.

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Smoking will kill you earlier than NOT SMOKING-thats a reason to quit.

I'm not prejudiced person but I will say I have no smoking friends-none.

 

 

Now as to safety when I used to make clay in collage-before masks where common-we would mix and have to leave the shed as you could not breath as to the dust.

Over time masks and gloves and air handlers and sponging and mopping -washing my clay stuff in an outside separate washer-became part of my life but it was not always this way-I had way to many luster headaches back in the day firing kilns. Our collage never had any mask or safety stuff-lead glazes for raku is what I mixed for the classes.

If you are worried as to dust you can have a lung diffusion test-I read about it about 5-6 years ago in my industrial ceramics magazine. At that time our local hospital just had gotten the equipment in and my doc approved it as he said I knew more about it that he did-it measures your lung elasticity and gives you an approx age number so at 55 I had the lungs of a 40 year old they said. Mostly because I have been a scuba diver with a few thousand dives in on the past 34 years. Underwater breathing makes for strong lungs. The more elastic your lungs are the less likely you have silicoses issues; there is no test for that until you have it.

Will clay kill me-well yes it will-you see it has worn my body out, hurt my back. Made my wrist fail and surgeons cut three wrist bones out due to

Excessive use- and I still move 10 tons about every year until my body gives out. It's slow death and I seem to love it because I cannot stop only slow down. Will the clay boxes fall over and crush me or I do a header into the car kiln or will my back snap from the weights? -Any sane person would have walked away a few decades ago. Safety well that’s an after thought really as clay has infected me from an early age before this was well known.

I will not even talk about the commercial dives or handling my 20 high presure scuba tanks or 4200 psi compressor or decompression dives as that stuff can really hurt you as its more dangerous.Clay hey its only mud and dust.

 

One thing I have run into is folks who have a fear of clay and chemicals-it seems this a more modern fear.

Mark

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Chris,et al;

Thank-you for your good points. I did not mean to create any hysteria. I was giving a personal example of a friend of mine who did not take any precautions in the studio. Obviously, I am not a medical doctor and I cannot make medical judgements.

I am just asking that people be careful in the studio and take precautions.

Also, as a second point; I teach art. My favourite section is the clay unit. I would not want my program to be shut down for "safety concerns"

TJR.

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Guest JBaymore

TJR,

 

I've been doing workshops, consulting, and teaching for a long time.  I've visited many potters and schools studios over the years.  From what I've seen...... a 'dose of awareness' is certainly still important to get out there.  Even today.  Some of the practices and working conditions I've seen, even quite recently, make me cringe.

 

So your interest in getting folks to be aware is not misplaced at all. No apology needed. 

 

Like Mark, I remember my early days at the University when I was in school......... mixing clay from dry materials in a closed room that was barely big enough for the paddle blade batch mixer (no safety shutoff or lid cover) with no ventilation.  One very small window open, no fan.  We tied a cotton scarf over our faces to help with the dust. Raku-ing with raw lead glazes... and cooking food over the kiln's exhaust.

 

We've mostly come a long ways from that time in the 60's with the awareness about health and safety.... but I still see practices way too often that are not all that different from "the good ole' days".

 

The levels of exposures for most of us, even full-timers, are typically far lower than the experiences of people like miners and heavy industrial workers....the people that "the studies" usually look at.  But the big issue usually is that we typically don't know the level that we ARE being exposed to.  THAT is the real issue in this subject for the studio artist.  So we tend to have to go 'a bit overboard' from the likely reality to try to make sure that we are protected.  Most of the time... we likely are OVER protected.

 

Over-reaction happens.  People who 'go off the deep end' and feel that with a single speck of XXXXXXXXX (pick your poison) in the studio... and we are all going to die.  There are few toxins that a single speck is going to do you in.  ;)  (Maybe anthrax spores or something like that fits that bill.)

 

Yes, there are hazards in using stuff like barium carbonate, manganese compounds, uranium compounds, arsenic compounds, cadmium compounds, flint/quartz, and so on.  But if folks take the time and invest in themselves and their health enough to educate themselves about the nature of the dangers, and the ways to mitigate those dangers....... then working in the studio and not killing yourself in the process is still very much possible and, in fact, quite likely.

 

best,

 

...........................john

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