Guidelines for Chemical Hazards in the Arts-Environmental Health & Safety - Carnegie Mellon University

Chemical Hazards in the Arts

EH&S is dedicated to helping you prevent or eliminate your exposure to hazardous chemicals at CMU.  Below we provide some general guidelines to help you identify the hazards you might be working with and identify routes of exposures.  Additionally, we provide methods by which you can reduce or eliminate your chances of exposure.  As always, contact EH&S at (412)268-8182 with any questions.

Workers may be exposed to chemical hazards through four main routes—contact with the skin or mucous membranes, cuts or breaks in the skin, inhalation, and ingestion.  The risk of exposure to certain chemicals is directly linked to the following factors:

  • Duration and frequency of exposure
  • Chemical toxicity
  • Chemical amount

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) establishes a Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) for nearly every hazardous substance you might encounter.  The PEL of a hazardous substance is a regulatory limit on the amount or concentration of a substance in the air that a healthy adult worker can be exposed to over an 8-hour workday and 40-hour workweek without experiencing significant adverse health effects.

In addition to adhering to the OSHA regulations, following these guidelines for working with graphic media materials could reduce or eliminate your risk of exposure:

  • Receive all related training before commencing work (HazCom training, etc.).
  • Read all Safety Data Sheets (SDS) and product labels before working with chemicals.
  • Use ChemTracker to keep an up-to-date inventory with all of the materials you have on-hand.
  • Use non-toxic or less toxic solvents and chemicals when possible.
    • Eliminate toxic metals such as lead and cadmium. Substitute cadmium-free silver solders and lead-free paint, glazes and enamels.
    • Use water-based instead of solvent-based materials.
    • Avoid powders.  Use wet techniques (such as wet sanding) instead of dry techniques.
    • Apply coatings by brushing or dipping instead of spraying.
    • Eliminate cancer-causing (carcinogenic) chemicals.
  • Wear personal protective equipment (PPE) as appropriate.
  • Know the location of your safety equipment and how to use it (eyewash, etc.), as well as proper emergency response procedures.
  • Properly store and dispose of all chemicals in appropriate, compatible containers.

Office: FMSB 3rd Floor

Phone: (412) 268-3221
Contact: Tara Balonick

Office: FMSB 3rd Floor
Phone: (412) 268-7501
Contact: Jeff Harris