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ASTM D01.57: SyntaxofColor

American Society for Testing and Materials International (ASTM International) provides a structure for the writing and dissemination of standards for the manufacturing and testing of all sorts of products and services in the world.

A particular subcommittee of ASTM focuses on art materials.  The members of the subcommittee come from the manufacturing, consumer, user and technical expert fields that are related to artists' paint manufacturing, the creation of works of art and services that provide testing of materials along with health and safety reviews.

This section of The Syntax of Color website deals with the issues related to consumer interests in the work of the subcommittee.  Artist who wish to get involved with the work that ASTM does for art materials manufacturing, should go to the contact page and send a message to express an interest in learning more or joining the subcommittee.  The group is always in search of artist who have an interest in art materials and are willing to help to create quality standards for art materials.

ASTM D01.57, Artists' Materials

The subcommittee ASTM D01.57 creates manufacturing standards to help art materials manufacturers have guidelines to make art materials that meet the quality specifications of fine art materials for professional and amateur use.  The standards do no address children's art products or craft materials.

Artists' quality standards differ from health and safety standards.  Compliance with the ASTM standard D4236 is a requirement of federal law that was created in conjunction with the the Labeling of Hazardous Art Materials Act (LHAMA) overseen by the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) to assure that materials that contain toxic materials are are properly labeled and that the source of the manufacturer is well documented so that if a situation occurs where a manufacturer needs to be consulted about the toxicity of a material in an art related product, a contact name and means of reaching them are available. 

Toxic materials are allowed to be used in adult oriented art material products but the hazard they pose must be addressed with the prpper warning labels and symbols.  An aside that is not formally a part of the subcommittee's business is to emphasize that art materials, if used properly within the context of creating works of art, pose little health risks.  


Artists need to be educated that paints should not pose a risk to health because the method of using them avoids exposure to any of the harmful chemicals that may be contained in art materials.  Some aspects of exposure avoidance are within the realm of common sense.  Artists should never consume any paint materials.  Paints should not be used outside of their intended purpose, such as, using paints not labeled for face or body painting, to be used for such purposes.  Many paints should not be used in spray applications.  Many art materials should not be dry sanded with potential exposure to dust from sanding.  Most art materials, especially mediums that contain solvents, should not be used without proper ventilation aor skin protection to safeguard the user from exposure.

Artist should not be afraid of art materials, even materials like lead white, inorganic pigments that contain metalic components like cobalt blue or solvents that are used to clean brushes or dilute paints.  However, this lack of fear is predicated on good hygene and studio safety practice.  It is important to differentiate between artists' grade paints that may contain lead or heavy metal compunds or solvents and those that are made and marketed to youngsters.  

Visit this page agin soon for more postings on ASTM related topics.

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