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Pollution Prevention for Arts Education: Background and Overview
Table of Contents
Background and Overview
Reasons for Change
Health Effects
Regulations and Policies
P2 Opportunities
Consumer Education
Glossary of Terms
Green Products
Key Contacts
Complete List of Links

Essential Links:

A.C.T.S. Providing Safety and Hazard Information for the Arts
"A.C.T.S. is a not-for-profit corporation that provides health, safety, industrial hygiene, technica...

Environmental Health & Safety in the Arts: A Guide for K-12 Schools, Colleges and Artisans
Environmental Compliance and Best Management Practices Guidance Manual for K-12 Schools, with emphas...

Greening Your Lessons -- Art
This portal provided by Greening Schools for art educator resources covers a broad spectrum of conc...

Guidelines for the Safe Use of Art and Craft Materials
This guide provides a focus on education guidelines for elementary art materials and exposure concer...

Keeping the Artist Safe: Hazards of Arts and Crafts Materials
This compilation from the National Library of Medicine provides an overview of hazards encountered i...

<big><b>Pollution Prevention for Art Education: Background and Overview</b></big>

This section contains information on the nature of the problems and reasons for focusing on pollution prevention in art education, including theatrical arts education.

Until recently, art and craft materials have received little attention as health hazards. Concern has been growing over the hazards of art materials and of the processes used in art education. Many traditional art and craft supplies contain toxic substances either known to be or suspected of being human carcinogens. Additionally, they may pose significant risks to the health and development of art students.

The majority of art educators have not benefited from extensive background training in chemistry or other sciences. Because of this, they may be unaware of risks associated with the art materials that they use. Many art materials contain industrial chemicals that may pose a threat to both the environment and to the health of those using them or working with them. Additionally, many artists are unaware of waste management issues for those hazardous materials. Furthermore, many art educators are unfamiliar with current legislative requirements such as Illinois Law, Act 105, ILCS 135/2 (Toxic Art Supplies in Schools Act). By learning about environmental health and safety concerns associated with the use of art materials, and by carefully selecting the materials with which they work, art educators can reduce their own exposures as well as those of their students and also prevent pollution. In their role as educators and mentors, they can also pass along best health and environmental practices to their students.

Hazardous Materials and Health/Safety Concerns

Many artists are self-employed. Their workplaces are not monitored under OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) regulations, and they have not been studied under traditional health and safety research.

In addition to toxic risks, other safety issues occur that create occupational hazards. The list of art forms and associated risks is surprisingly long. Some examples include the following:

Art Form Health Risk
Acid etching Emphysema
Stained-glass making Lead poisoning
Jewelery making Cadmium poisoning
Painting Bladder cancer

Hazardous Materials, Storage, and Disposal

Environmental risks occur from improper storage and disposal of waste materials used in the art classroom or art studio. Many artists are unaware of toxicological or ecological information regarding their materials, nor are they aware of disposal considerations and regulatory information. Waste materials may be improperly disposed either when placed in the trash or down the drain.

Improper package warnings and lack of awareness as to the nature of risks and hazards perpetuate pollution problems. As awareness increases among the art community and within the art education system, these risks are anticipated to diminish.

Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle Educational Waste

Art educators generate considerable amounts of waste, both paper and non-traditional materials such as metals, plastics, and fabrics. Theatrical arts create waste through promotion (playbills), props and set designs, and costumes. Source-reduction and waste-reduction strategies both prevent creation of waste and address waste management and pollution prevention. Identification of source-reduction opportunities and zero waste management strategies help art educators create healthier, more sustainable, and less polluting learning environments. See the Glossary for definitions on these various strategies of waste reduction.

Efficient Use of Energy

Often energy use is not considered when evaluating art education, especially theatrical arts education. Energy use in industrial arts, photography, and theater can be reduced using some simple energy-efficiency measures. There are also many types of energy-efficient equipment that may replace in-use equipment. For more information, see Energy Star.


The Topic Hub™ is a product of the Pollution Prevention Resource Exchange (P2Rx)

The Pollution Prevention for Arts Education Topic Hub™ was developed by:

Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable
Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable
Contact email:

Hub Last Updated: 7/31/2009

GLRPPR is a member of the Pollution Prevention Resource Exchange, a national network of regional information centers: NEWMOA (Northeast), WRRC (Southeast), GLRPPR (Great Lakes), ZeroWasteNet (Southwest), P2RIC (Plains), Peaks to Prairies (Mountain), WSPPN (Pacific Southwest), PPRC (Northwest).


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