A miner who extracts silver ore from the earth and a sculptor who chisels a statue out of stone might not seem similar in all respects. One way in which they are similar, though, is a particular health risk that each one faces. Silica, a common component of sand, soil and rock, is something with which miners and sculptors come into frequent contact. When fine particles of silica are inhaled deeply into the lungs, those particles can scar the delicate lung tissue and cause a debilitating disease called silicosis. Both miners and stone sculptors can develop this disease if they are exposed to enough silica.
Silica exposure is just one example of a hazard that an artist might face while producing a piece of art, but there are others. The MAP ERC has been working with an arts school in Denver to identify which paints, which solvents and which artistic methods pose potential health and safety risks to artists and art students. Beginning with a baseline assessment and set of recommendations, MAP ERC trainees, faculty members and leaders in the art school embarked on a project that is still ongoing. Two goals of the project are to determine what constitutes "safe art" practices and to determine the best ways to enable artists to protect themselves from potential hazards without compromising the quality of their art.