Hazards in the making and use of traditional ceramics.

Alumina Toxicology | Ammonia and Latex Toxicity | Antimony Oxide | Arsenic Oxide | Asbestos: A Difficult-to-Repace Material | Ball Clay | BARIUM and COMPOUNDS / Toxicology | Barium Carbonate | Bentonite Toxicity | Beryllium Monoxide Toxicology | Bismuth Trioxide Toxicology | Boron Compounds and Their Toxicity | Brown Stain | Cadmium Toxicity | Calcium Carbonate Toxicology | Carbon Monoxide Toxicity | Cesium Toxicology | Chromium Compounds Toxicology | Cobalt Oxide and Carbonate | Cobalt Toxicology | Copper Compounds Toxicology | Copper Oxide and Carbonate | Cristobalite Toxicity | Cryolite and Ceramics | Dealing With Dust in Ceramics | Diatomaceous Earth Toxicology | Dioxins in Clays | Epsom Salts | Eye Injuries Due to Radiation | Feldspar | Fighting Micro-Organisms in Ceramics | Fluorine Gas | Gallium Oxide Toxicology | Hafnium Oxide Toxicty | Hydrofluoric Acid Toxicity | Iron oxide and Hematite | Kaolin Toxicity | Lead Chromate | Lead in Ceramic Glazes: What Did We Learn? | Lead in Frits: The Hazards | Lead Toxicology | Lithium Carbonate Toxicity | Lithium Toxicology | Man-Made Vitreous Fibers (MMVF) Toxicology | Man-Made Vitreous Fibers Safety Update | Manganese and Parkinsons by Jane Watkins | Manganese in Clay Bodies | Manganese Inorganic Compounds Toxicology | Manganese Toxicity by Elke Blodgett | Manganese: Creativity and Illness by Dierdre O'Reilly | Molybdenum Compounds Toxicology | Nickel Compounds Toxicity | Niobium Oxide Toxicity | Occupational Dermatoses | Overview of Material Safety by Gavin Stairs | Paraffin Toxicology | Perlite Toxicity | Plant Ash Toxicity | Potassium Carbonate Toxicity | Pregnancy and Ceramics | Propane Toxicology | Quartz Toxicity | Quartz Toxicity on Clayart | Rare Earth Compounds Toxicity | Rubidium and Cesium Toxicology | Rutile Toxicology | Silicosis and Screening | Silver Compounds Toxicology | Sodium Azide Toxicology | Sodium Carbonate Toxicology | Sodium Silicate Powder Toxicology | Stannous Chloride Toxicity | Strontium Carbonate Toxicity Note | Sulfur Dioxide Toxicity | Talc Hazards Overview | Talc Toxicology | Thallium Oxide Toxicology | The Use of Barium in Clay Bodies | Thorium Dioxide Toxicity | Tin Inorganic Compounds | Titanium Dioxide Toxicology | Toxicological Assessment of Zeolites | Tungsten Compounds Toxicology | Understanding Acronyms on MSDS's | Uranium and Ceramics | Vanadium and Compounds Toxicology | Zinc Compounds Toxicology | Zirconium Compounds Toxicity | Zirconium Encapsulated Stains Toxicity


A wide range of materials are used in ceramics. Many of them are harmless, they can be breathed or eaten will little effect. Hundreds of tons of clays are sold each year for the specific purpose of eating them! And many more for cosmetic and medicinal uses. Most ceramic materials are inert, insoluble and among the most stable of materials. That means that it is not dangerous to, once in a while, touch or handle the vast majority of materials. However, if there is constant exposure, then long term effects need to be considered. Notwithstanding this, there some materials do have specific acute or short-term exposure hazards (by ingestion or inhalation).

Material hazards are most commonly related to the dust. But there is a need to be sensible about it. One cigarette, for example, does not kill. Nor do 100. But 100,000 can. Likewise, there may be some asbestos fibres in talc or vermiculite, but you will not be harmed by sweeping up a little of either. You will be harmed if exposed to the dust daily for years and take no precautions. Consider frits to illustrate the need for common sense: There are hundreds available. They are ground glass powders, that means each particle is a glass shard, potentially with razor sharp angular edges! It it not easy to find hazards information on frits (likely because there are so many types and each pulverizes to a different particle shape). Yet simple logic tells us to be careful about breathing the dust. And, to illustrate the need for perspective, consider silicosis: It is a much more serious health issue than asbestosis. Yet pretty well all dust in nature contains some quartz. Even gardening, farming or just walking in dry areas expose one to quartz dust. This is because quartz makes up 10% of the planet. So minimizing exposure over the years is the common sense approach.

Some materials produce harmful fumes at certain temperatures during firing. Bodies or glazes with high percentages of manganese dioxide (and other metal oxide raw materials), for example, will fume and should be considered hazardous. The obvious precaution is to install a vent on your kiln.

Some materials are poison or toxic if eaten. Barium carbonate or lithium carbonate are examples. But this is not common.


Articles Crazing and Bacteria: Is There a Hazard?
A post to a discussion on the clayart group by Gavin Stairs regarding the food safety of crazed ware.
Articles Is Your Fired Ware Safe?
Glazed ware can be a safety hazard to end users because it may leach metals into food and drink, it could harbor bacteria and it could flake of in knife-edged pieces.
Articles Attack on Glass: Corrosion Attack Mechanisms
Max Richens outlines the various mechanisms by which acids and bases can dissolve glass and glazes. He provides some information on stabilizing glazes against attack.
Hazards Dealing With Dust in Ceramics
A checklist for changes and additions to your tools and equipment and suggestions for habit you need to develop to control dust in your workplace.
Hazards Quartz Toxicity
URLs http://www.ilo.org/public/english/protection/safework/cis/products/icsc/dtasht/index.htm
International Labour Organization Chemical Safety Database
URLs http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxprofiles/index.asp
CDC Toxicity Profiles of many substances
Glossary Leaching
Ceramic glazes can leach heavy metals into food and drink. This subject is not complex, there are many things anyone can do to deal with this issue

By Tony Hansen

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