Non-toxic art is a contemporary medium, which allows the artist to have ample freedom and ease with rich possibilities in the creative process. Educational centers from elementary schools to universities worldwide have developed academic curriculums aimed at the practice of working with non-toxic materials. The following countries have implemented programs of education and training towards non-toxic use and environmental conservation. These are the United States, Japan, England, Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Canada(Keith Howard: Non Toxic printmaking book), New Zealand( Mark Graver: Non Toxic printmaking), Argentina, Turkey, Ireland, Brasil, United Kingdom and Puerto Rico.
The art manufacturers, distributors, companies and shops selling art supplies, offer through their catalogs alternatives to purchase materials with non toxic coding. There are governmental environmental protection companies engaged in overseeing and fining everyone that does not handle and store chemicals properly. We cannot forget that most of the art materials we use are chemicals.
According to a publication in 1978 entitled Health and Safety in Printmaking: A Manual of engraving for printmaking artists published in Canada by Alberta Labour reports that there are 112 toxic and harmful substances commonly used by traditional printmakers.
Some of these high-risk substances are nitric and sulfuric acid. We also found Paint thinner solvents such as, benzene, and lacquer thinner amongst others. The exposure to these chemicals which contain carcinogens can cause the following damages:
1- Birth defects
2- Damage to the central nervous system
5- Severe burns
6- Poisoning in lungs
7- Problems with liver and kidneys
8- Heart disease
9- Nervous disorders
10- Dermatitis skin erosion
11- Damage to the mucous membrane and the respiratory tract.
The artists manage images through technical manipulation, versatility and a variety of effects that help in the construction of the project. Working with household materials that do not pose health risks such as
floor wax , soap , vegetable oil , vinegar, acrylic paint and water blocker, among others, help the process becomes a unique experience. Logically we care for our health and in effect we respect our planet. Pollution and frequent contacts we have with the products used in the visual arts, have caused an immediate initiative to solve the problem of using and handling hazardous materials in art workshops.
Developments in modern art trends, technology and economic and industrial growth could be factors that help the artist move to the use of new technical languages to create his work. The intention of the artist today is to interpret a healthy and genuine work of art. He wants to express differently. The main objective is to make the viewer observe and interact with new vocabulary that is being presented. The artists are not willing to contaminate, we just want to make art. We want to solve technical problems with effective responsible solutions and procedures. The effort is to create a purely creative work, but at the same time non-toxic. There must be a clear definition of the meanings of safety and precaution, at the same time taking into account our environment and the protection of our planet.
Professor Fernando Santiago Camacho
Inter American University of Puerto Rico
San Germán, Campus