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Soft pastels have always carried the risk of inhalation of the fine dust.
Modern brands made in Europe, US and Australia claim their products are currently asbestos, free. They take this information from the companies supplying the talc used in the production of the soft pastel.
Tests by the United States Mine Safety and Health Administration found asbestos in all four, supposedly asbestos free, talc samples that it tested in 2000. Asbestos was found, in Artist’s Pastels and Children’s crayons as recently as the year 2000.
It is a case of ‘Artist’s Beware,' when you work with soft pastels, as you are working with fine dust that when inhaled is harmful.
I love working in artist’s pastels. If I did not already own a kit worth thousands of dollars, I would never begin to use them, and I swear I will never buy another pastel. I currently have a little play with them, trying to decide what to do with the kit I have. My knowledge tells me I should not ever use them, the recent results of what can creatively be achieved in a quick pastel sketch, makes me want to cling to these hazardous art materials. My heart has me sticking still to something intellect tells me I should relinquish.
Do yourself a favour, if you already work with pastels, wear a dust mask, work with as little dust as possible, no tapping on the back of the work or blowing off the dust, indoors and damp dust after each use. Use them as infrequently as possible and do not substitute this medium for anything else you could inhale, like volatile thinners.
Do all spraying of fixatives out of doors. Discourage others from taking up any art medium where the risk of inhalation poisoning is unacceptably high.
Yes, for sure the pastel manufacturers label these materials safely. The marketers are not the ones contracting cancers at a higher rate than the general population like professional artists do.
Art is to be enjoyed; you cannot enjoy life or art if you are chronically ill so chose your mediums with health as the high priority.
Work safely, free from the risks of inhalation, ingestion, and absorption through the skin; pigments and binders. This means to minimise your contact with artist’s soft pastels.
I travel extensively to draw inspiration for my paintings and writing from life experience.
You will discover my Australian rural-lit novels at www.rural-lit.com