pigment production in India (Wikipedia)
European Chemical Agency
Mechanism of toxicity
Cadmium (Cd) is an extremely toxic industrial and environmental pollutant classified as a human carcinogen ? according to International Agency for Research on Cancer;
? according to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); and 1B carcinogen classified by exposure may occur. Regulations that set permissible levels of exposure, however, are enforced to protect workers and to make sure that levels of cadmium in the air are considerably below levels thought to result in harmful effects.
Artists who work with cadmium pigments, which are commonly used in strong oranges, reds, and yellows, can easily accidentally ingest dangerous amounts, particularly if they use the pigments in dry form, as with chalk pastels, or in mixing their own paints. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cadmium_poisoning
Painters use pigments in oil paints, acrylics, watercolor
paints, gouache, encaustic, poster paints, casein paints and
tempera. Sometimes commercial paints such as oil enamel, epoxy
paints and automobile paints are used.
Paints are pigments mixed with a vehicle or binder. Both
inorganic and organic pigments are used as colorants. Dry
pigments are especially hazardous because they are easily inhaled
and ingested. They are used in encaustic, paper-marbleizing and
in the fabrication of paint products, and will be discussed more
thoroughly in the section below on pastels.
1. Poisoning can occur if toxic pigments are inhaled or ingested.
The main hazard in standard painting techniques is accidental
ingestion of pigments due to eating, drinking or smoking while
working, inadvertent hand to mouth contact, or pointing the paint
brush with the lips. If methods such as spraying, heating, or
sanding are employed then there is an opportunity for inhalation
of toxic pigments.
2. The classic example of a toxic inorganic pigment in painting
is white lead, or flake white (basic lead carbonate). Lead
pigments can cause anemia, gastrointestinal problems, peripheral
nerve damage (and brain damage in children), kidney damage and
reproductive system damage. Other inorganic pigments may be
hazardous, including pigments based on cobalt, cadmium, and
manganese. (See Table 1)
3. Some of the inorganic pigments, in particular cadmium
pigments, chrome yellow and zinc yellow may cause lung
cancer. In addition lamp black and carbon black may contain
impurities that can cause skin cancer.
4. Chromate pigments (chrome yellow and zinc yellow) may cause
skin ulceration and allergic skin reactions (such as rashes).
5. The long-term hazards of the modern synthetic organic pigments
have not been well studied. (See Table 1)
Table 1 - Toxic Pigments
Known or Probable Carcinogens/Highly Toxic Pigments
antimony white (antimony trioxide)
barium yellow (barium chromate)
burnt umber or raw umber (iron oxides, manganese silicates or
cadmium red or orange (cadmium sulfide, cadmium selenide)
cadmium yellow (cadmium sulfide)
cadmium barium colors (cadmium colors and barium sulfate)
cadmium barium yellow (cadmium sulfide, cadmium selenide, barium
sulfate, zinc sulfide)
chrome green (prussian blue, lead chromate)
chrome orange (basic lead carbonate)
chrome yellow (lead chromate)
cobalt violet (cobalt arsenate or cobalt phosphate)
cobalt yellow (potassium cobaltinitrate)
lead or flake white (basic lead carbonate)
lithol red (sodium, barium and calcium salts of soluble azo
manganese violet (manganese ammonium pyrophosphate)
molybdate orange (lead chromate, lead molybdate, lead sulfate)
naples yellow (lead antimonate)
strontium yellow (strontium chromate)
vermilion (mercuric sulfide)
zinc yellow (zinc chromate)
Moderately Toxic Pigments/Slightly Toxic Pigments
alizarin crimson (lakes of 1,2-dihydroxyanthaquinone or insoluble
carbon black (carbon)
cerulean blue (cobalt stannate)
cobalt blue (cobalt stannate)
cobalt green (calcined cobalt, zinc and aluminum oxides)
chromium oxide green (chromic oxide)
manganese blue (barium manganate, barium sulfate)
prussian blue (ferric ferrocyanide)
toluidine red (insoluble azo pigment)
toluidine yellow (insoluble azo pigment)
viridian (hydrated chromic oxide)
zinc white (zinc oxide)
1. Obtain MSDSs on your paints to find out what pigments you are
using. This is especially important
because the name that appears on the tube of color may or may not
truly represent the pigments present.
Manufacturers may keep the name of a color while reformulating
2. Use the least toxic pigments possible. Do not use lead or
3. Avoid mixing dry pigments whenever possible.
4. If dry pigments are mixed, do it inside a glove box (a box
with a glass or plexiglas top and holes in the front.