Preparing for the overhaul...

Monday, August 13, 2012

Ruminating About Safety

It's amazing, how parenthood changes your perspective on things.  I care about things for my child that I've never cared about for myself--and, in realizing that, I've also realized a few other things.  For example, I never really ate a healthy diet.  Sure, I made a stab at it now and then, but just having, you know, healthy arteries for me never seemed that important.  I know, right?  But, after I found out I was pregnant, I became fanatical about my diet.  It wasn't just about me anymore; I knew my son would be eating everything I did, and I didn't want him eating pesticides, heavy metals, saturated fat-laden, processed "foods," etc.  

And, since he's been born, I've pretty much kept up with the healthier diet.  Because, well, forcing myself to view the issue in those terms--to view it honestly--also forced me to have a growth experience.  He's not even four months old, and already my son has taught me a lot.

As artists, artisans and craftspeople, most of us don't tend to think about our safety overmuch.  Sure, we might occasionally pop on some safety goggles, and I'm pretty sure nobody out there is intentionally drinking turpentine.  But what about the smaller stuff?  Even "non-toxic" paint, to some degree, emits toxic fumes; enamels, like I've been using on the Chrysnbon kits, most definitely emit fumes.  Will they kill you overnight?  No.  But inhaling them can cause all kinds of problems in the long term.

And what about dust?  Not just plastic dust, but sawdust?  Inhaling that's no treat, either--and, let's be real, most of that wood's been treated with something.  Don't believe me?  Visit a sawmill sometime.  Maine has had problems for years with sawmills and toxic dumping.  And don't even get me started on what goes into paper.

Yes, paper.  Drink a couple cups of the liquid expelled during a commercial paper-creation process, and it'll kill you.

Lead can't absorb through the skin, but you can breathe in micro-particles of it easily.

Many glues give off fumes, some of which are highly toxic.

Ever wondered why solvent-based paint is toxic when wet, but perfectly safe when dry?  What the drying process actually is--and this is why it's so dramatically affected by humidity--is the solvents in the paint (which include carcinogens like toluene) evaporating.  So long as it's smelly, it's dangerous.  And yet so many of us are used to these smells.  They bring out happy associations.  We like them.

I have a fine art background, and was told for years to ventilate my studio, not mix paints with my fingers, only use spray fix under a hood, etc etc etc.  Obviously, I never listened.  I met a guy who developed an aggressive skin cancer on his fingertips from years of fine art woodworking without the proper safety precautions and, for some reason, this didn't move me.

But looking at my son did.  I realized that, if I could smell it--however faintly, including on my own clothes, etc--then so could he.  And the thought absolutely terrified me.  I couldn't sleep for days, worrying about it.  He's such a perfect little person--what if, inadvertently, I'd harmed him somehow?  These fumes made me lightheaded, and I'm not 15--20 pounds and 25" long.

Enter: the hobby model spray booth.  I bought mine on Amazon.  Somehow, the almost 500.00 (including filters) price tag didn't seem so bad, when viewed in the context of my child's brain function.  Either I was going to be a selfish, terrible parent, or I was going to be responsible.  And, as my husband pointed out, it'd probably save my little gray cells, too.  You don't have to spend half a grand, either; little measures--like letting things dry outside, or placing them near a window and pointing a fan at them so the fumes vent away from the house--can make a big difference.  And, face it, spray primer smells just awful.

Fanning the horrible fumes out from the screen porch; don't point your fan upwind, as this will utterly defeat the purpose of the exercise.


Bell and Crow Miniatures said...

This is a great post. And one that I needed to read. While I am 43 years old, I don't think that my mentality has changed much from the time I was a kid. That means I still have feelings of immortality, that nothing could happen to me. I use ALOT of chemicals in my work due to my focus on landscaping. I use alot of spray sealants, resins, expoxy, various glues, not to mentions paints, primers, varnishes, etc. I always work with the windows open and there is usually a decent breeze but this post made me stop and think. I never use gloves, masks, and half the time I don't wear goggles, even when using the dremel which is stupid. Thanks for the wake up call. I needed it.

CJ said...

Thank you! I really appreciate the positive feedback :-) I was sort of wondering if anyone had read this. I'm glad you did, and that we could connect :-)