Monday, February 17, 2014

Cancer Causing Chemical in Paint For Kids?

Ask my older son what his favorite activities are and undoubtedly one will be "arting"  (his word for anything related to art). My son and I do art projects just about every week and sometimes more than once a week.... Tempera, water colors, markers, pastels, glue, glitter, you name it we have it at home. I love the freedom that art give kids to express themselves but I do worry about the chemicals these art supplies could potentially expose kids to... especially with the littlest kids who love to explore everything, including art supplies, by tasting them.  It might be one of the products I try to research the most because we use them so much.

Last week I went to buy tempera paint at one of my favorite NYC art supply stores. As I was 
looking around the children's area I picked up a pack of paint from a very well known art brand : Faber-Castell. They are known in the art world as makers of top quality art supplies.... So I was disappointed to see a sticker that read " WARNING: this product contains cadmium
a chemical known to the state of California to cause cancer." Just lovely - something that is known to cause cancer in paints being sold in the children's art section.
So what is Cadmium and how common is it? 

What is CADMIUM?

Cadmium is a heavy metal used as a stabilizer in PVC and in coatings and pigments in plastic and paint (ATSDR 2012). 

How bad is CADMIUM? 

Pretty bad.  According the Healthy, Depending on the level of exposure, cadmium has been linked to:

- developmental effects, including possible decreases in birth weight, delayed sensory-motor development, hormonal effects, and altered behavior (In animal studies)

- adverse effects on the kidney, lung and intestines 

- Cadmium is classified as a known human carcinogen, associated with lung and prostate cancer. 

- Exposure to cadmium can result in bone loss and increased blood pressure 

- if ingested, high levels of cadmium can result in abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and death 

- Acute toxicity from inhalation of high levels of cadmium can result in symptoms similar to metal fume fever and severe gastroenteritis 

- a 2013 study from Arizona State University found that children with autism had higher levels of several toxic metals in their blood and urine compared to typical children.  Cadmium and mercury were the metals most strongly associated with autism

- Another study led by Harvard University found that children with higher cadmium levels are three times more likely to have learning disabilities and participate in special education. 

Where is CADMIUM  found? 

Not only in paint. Turns out cadmium is quite common in another product marketed to children: inexpensive children's jewelry.

How do I avoid exposing my children to cadmium?

Lucky for us parents, this is pretty easy.  Regarding art supplies; read the ingredients. Always look for non-toxic paint and supplies.   

The question of what defines 'non-toxic' paint tends to come up at this point.  Is paint really non-toxic if you have to call poison control if ingested?  The Crayola  Material Safety Data Sheets clearly states that it all ingredients are considered safe and are non-toxic however it does suggest that  in the case of ingestion you should " Contact local poison control center or physician immediately".  Basically,  I do think non-toxic paint is fine, especially for older kids,  but if you have a very little munchkin who is prone to tasting everything you might want to take things a step further and make your own art supplies for a while.... this way you know exactly what ingredients your munchkin is eating.   It might be time consuming activity, but it might help you enjoy art time more.  

Want recipes for home made play dough and paint?   Read our post Homemade Art Supplies

Another option is buying natural art supplies.  While they cost a bit more if your toddler is chewing on his/her crayons it might be worth the cost!  Some we like are:

 Busy Bee crayons are made from pure beeswax and natural pigments, and are wider and easier to hold

Clementine Art:  Play dough, crayons, paint, markers and glue - all of their  ingredients are listed on each package. There are no chemicals or synthetic additives, just plant-based materials and good-enough-to-eat ingredients like flour, salt and vinegar. 

Eco-Kids: another all- natural line of great quality art supplies

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