Painting with oils pose health risks. While these risks are being addressed by those making various materials used in painting to make it safer, risks still exit. We've mentioned some of these risks in this forum, mainly the use of solvents.
There are two major types of chemicals that can poison us while painting: organic hydrocarbons (used in solvents and mediums for example) and heavy metals (e.g., paint pigments -cobalt, lead, mercury, barium,etc.). They enter our body through inhalation, ingestion or absorption through the skin. As a result the major health risks we face include: toxic fumes, flammable fire hazards, eye irritants, toxic skin and toxic pigments. Examples of paints/pigments considered carcinogenic are burnt umber and cadmium yellow. An example of a moderately toxic pigment is alizarin crimson. Each of us react differently to different exposures of the hazards. Some folks could finger paint for a life time and not be affected at all, others are much more sensitive.
This thread is meant to address the use of gloves while painting to help reduce risks, especially those associated with absorption through the skin on your hands. I happen to notice while using the web to study the art of living painters, that more and more of their recent pictures taken while they are painting in their studio or giving lessons, show them using gloves.
Using gloves has its obvious health benefits but doesn't seem 'natural' to me while painting. Now I often paint with latex gloves on, but not always. It did take a while to get use to them and to remember to put them on before starting a painting session.
I'm not a particularly messy painter, quite the opposite. However, I did notice that there were two particular moments when I got paint on my hands quite regularly. First, I admit I like to blend with my fingers! Can't do that with gloves so that help me break the habit. The second instance is opening paint tubes.....as I use a tube of paint over time, its seems to quickly become a sloppy process no matter how careful I try to be. I tried using a paper towel for both holding the tube and the cap but I still get paint on me. Consequently I now open paint tubes with gloves on even if I don't keep them on to paint.
Solutions: First try not to get paint on you! If you do, wipe it off immediately (no toxic solvents please!). Second, don't eat or drink while painting (I was guilty of both). Third, wash your hands before doing anything else after you finish your painting session. Fourth, if you just can't help yourself and do get paint on your hands, try wearing latex or vinyl gloves.
I was diagnosed with cancer three years ago, underwent surgery, followup treatments and am now in remission. My cancer had nothing to do with oil painting. I have friends on this forum who are battling cancer or who are in remission....also to the best of my knowledge their cancer had nothing to do with painting. However, the experience does make you aware of doing what you can to reduce the odds of getting ill. This post is to encourage all of us to be knowledgeable of the risks, no matter how small, and take reasonable actions so we may enjoy our painting as safely as possible.
How about you? Do you wear gloves? Do you have suggestions for avoiding getting paint on you...or off you when you do? Any tips for how you handle messy paint tubes or how you keep them from getting messy?