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Info on painting, as an artist, while pregnant?

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 

I'm wondering if anyone has any information on the safety of painting with oil and acrylic paint while pregnant.  I've done my best with google, but I don't feel like I was able to find anything solid.  I've looked at MSDS sheets but I'm just not sure what is safe or unsafe for pregnancy, since pregnancy isn't addressed specifically on there.


My situation is that I share a studio space with an oil painter and I use acrylics.  The room is small and not very well ventilated, especially in the winter when it would be freezing to open windows.  She doesn't use turpentine thinner but does use an odorless (bob ross brand) paint thinner when painting.  (which probably isn't great)


I also read someone online saying that their doctor told them that acrylic artist paints where not good to use during pregnancy either.  


I guess I'm trying to decide if I need to let go of this studio space for a while AND whether or not I should take a break from my acrylic paints (& acrylic varnish).


 I am TTC and not currently pregnant, so I don't have a doctor to ask right now, but this is something I need to decide on soon.

post #2 of 17

This is an interesting question and I too am curious to learn more from others. I've used water soluble oil paints (more recently) and non-toxic acrylics (for a while). I didn't use the acrylics when I was pregnant because I didn't have time to paint much due to other things that were going on for me and when I did paint, it was easiest to just pull out my watercolors.

post #3 of 17

I only paint with acrylics myself, so I am not as much help re: information. To me, the acrylics aren't at all a problem. Oil however is pretty gross and since it does take much longer to dry, the off-gassing is worse imo and I'd stay away from it. My husband just today opened an old box of his that had some oil paints in it from years ago, and while the paints were dried out and useless, the fumes were soaked into the packaging and the papers he had in there, and made me nauseated.

So even though I feel acrylic is safe enough, if your only option is to be in that shared space, I might take a break if I were you - my own personal opinion. I'd def research it further to get hard facts though if possible!

post #4 of 17

You should give up painting-- it's only nine months.  I mean, JUST TO BE SAFE, you know?  WHY RISK IT?!!?


Just kidding-- pet peeve.


I'm also interested in the answers, as I am not an artist per se, but an artist's model.  Right now I'm more comfy taking jobs for drawing-only groups and classes, but I have an artist friend who will likely want to paint me when she finds out I'm pregnant.

post #5 of 17

I would think that non-toxic acrylics would be o.k., but can't say for sure.  I would definitely stay away from that studio.  Pregnancy could be an opportunity to try your hand at other media such as watercolors, pastels, colored pencils, etc.

post #6 of 17
I think acrylics in general are okay for pregnancy, as long as you take precautions--avoid skin contact and make sure your ventilation is excellent.

Sad to say, but I would not keep sharing a studio full of fumes. I would also stay away from varnishes completely. You could look into some of Golden's gloss mediums and such to get shiny effects, but definitely no varnish!

Through both of my pregnancies I painted with water-mixable oils (no turps!) and painted outside most of the time. If indoors, right by an open window with a fan going. Then I would set up paintings to dry on a rack or tabletop *outdoors.*

So my advice is be cautious and use common sense--if it smells toxic, it's toxic. But I don't think there's any reason to stop painting. smile.gif

This thread might be helpful to you: http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-445530.html
post #7 of 17
Thread Starter 

kparker:  I thought the smell of the oil paint itself was from the linseed oil.  I'm obviously not very familiar with oil paints, but I thought it was just pigment and linseed oil and the bad stuff is whatever is used to thin while painting, or to clean the brushes.


buko:  Haha.  You had me going there for a second.  ;)


artekah:  The thing is the room doesn't *smell* full of fumes or toxic, because she uses an odorless paint thinner.  What I do smell, I think, is the linseed oil in the oil paint.  When I approached her about it and how I thought it wasn't the best thing to be breathing, she assured me that it was fine and "odorless" (which doesn't mean good to breath)...and that oil paints themselves were only bad back in the day when they used bad pigments.  (But I still think they use some of the those pigments.)  Either way, I think the most frustrating thing is that she does not understand at all that this isn't great to breath so I have to explain that, even though I thought it was something most people know.




I think the reason I'm approaching this decision so carefully is because my studio mate is a good friend, and me moving out means that she has to pay more and I don't want her to be upset, thinking I'm making this up....so I want to make sure I'm making an educated decision.  Obviously I'll do what I need to do, despite feelings.  

The other reason is that I make money from my art.  I am a little bit delighted though, at the task of seeking out new mediums.



Thanks for all of the responses so far!

post #8 of 17
Does the studio have windows? If you can sit near an open window and there's good air flow, it's probably fine.
post #9 of 17
Thread Starter 

I just looked up the MSDS for the paint she uses and it appears to be solvent free and just uses Walnut oil as a medium.




Here's the MSDS for the paint thinner (starting on page 2) 



 I find these sort of confusing.  Maybe someone could help me?



The component in the thinner is listed as:  aliphatic hydrocarbon

In relation to pregnancy, I found this:  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2327413

and this power point presention:  http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=4&cad=rja&ved=0CDoQFjAD&url=http%3A%2F%2Fosh.sm.ee%2Fsystems%2Ftwin_dl%2Fcontent%2FSOLVEN1.PPT&ei=0sZHUL2vH-KpiAK4toEY&usg=AFQjCNE7u9-ANFCd6aFEm_CV46MLAGh05A&sig2=YqdpEBcWA5DM1AVZtTuvEw

post #10 of 17
Thread Starter 

artekah:  It's an old building.  In our room the windows are small and don't have screens.  It's too hot to keep them open right now, and in the winter it will be too cold to keep them open.  Plus there's the issue of dust on the paintings and letting bugs in.  My space is also farthest from the windows.

post #11 of 17
I wouldn't worry quite as much about fumes from the paint itself or the walnut oil (although really, *everyone* should *always* have ventilation) but paint thinner! Egads! Stay away, for sure! Perhaps you could ask your friend to switch to water-mixable oils for awhile? If that's too much to ask of her, honestly I'd quit using the studio for now. greensad.gif
post #12 of 17
Thread Starter 

artekah:  I had the same feeling about the paint thinner, but she seemed to think it was totally fine because it says "odorless."   I didn't want so say "no, you're wrong" until I double checked.  I feel like even if she switched to a different type of paint, it still wouldn't be ideal because there are drying paintings hanging out in there.

post #13 of 17

As I have nearly zero experience with oil paints because I couldn't stand the smell and hated how slow they were to dry, I am totally not a good person to ask about them. :\ My knowledge is a semester of being forced to work with them in high school - over ten years ago by now. You've got some good links - I'd keep up on the researching. It'd be great if everything was safe, smell or not.

post #14 of 17

With paints, it depends on what is the source of the pigments.  Oil tends to be more toxic than acrylic.  Some of the pigments in oil paints can be fairly toxic (cadmium, for example).  This seems to be much less of a problem with acrylics.  I've noticed that in the last 20 years, there's been a decided shift away from the more toxic ingredients in paints.  Solvents are another story, and pretty much have to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.   


If you aren't actually directly handling or working with the materials yourself, you really only need to worry about the VOCs (found in solvents).  If poor ventilation is a concern, you may want to wear a mask (that's how commercial painters deal with that issue).   

post #15 of 17

Oil paints aren't toxic.  No more so than acrylics or watercolors.  Oil paints do not have solvents in their ingredients.  They use exactly the same pigments for their colors as acrylics and watercolors.  There are watercolors and acrylics widely available with the exact same toxic pigments.  In each of these, the more toxic pigments are much more expensive so she'd be going out of her way to pay a lot more to get the real pigment.  Often artists are using cheaper and less toxic substitutes for those colors.  That is the typical offering.  Even if she were using real cadmium I would say there is no risk to you because pigments are not airborne so physical contact is the only way of being exposed.


Odorless mineral spirits are not "safe" and are quite volatile.  All brands of these are similar in composition and safety.  I can always smell them by the way--they are not fully "odorless".  Your friend needs to know this about their safety!  If she is only using them to clean brushes, that's not too bad especially if it is closed container the rest of the time.  (When you say she uses walnut oil as a medium I assume that mean she is not keeping an open solvent out for mixing with paint.)  For cleaning brushes, there are citrus solvents that are nicer.  I think limited use cleaning brushes with only moderate ventilation is adequate, even for you.  Your friend is smart to use walnut oil medium.  Many popular mediums (alkyd mediums like Liquin and Galkyd) do contain solvents, but the plain oil medium doesn't.


I would tend to be very cautious mainly in the first trimester and relax somewhat after that.  You might be able to preserve the studio-sharing arrangement with a few adjustments, but I think she needs to take your concerns seriously.  Pregnant mamas have sensitive noses in order to protect their babes.  While you may feel sensitive to harmless odors and fumes, you should listen to your body if you are uncomfortable.  Still, don't worry if you find the oil stinky because it really is safe.  Don't worry about the pigments in her paint, make sure you aren't getting your own paint in contact with your food, and read the pigment labels just in case.  There are warning labels on any paint and on the manufacturer's website for pigment safety.  Do worry about the less noticeable odorless solvent, though, because it is not completely safe. 


Do you have a plan for after baby is here so you will be able to work then? 

post #16 of 17
Thread Starter 

[ When I said that walnut oil is used as a medium, I was referring to the brand of paint that my friend uses. It's made of walnut oil and pigment.  She actually mixes her paint with the paint thinner and paints with it. ] 


I decided to let go of the studio.  Even for what I do, the ventilation is a problem.  I know that I'm not going to want to go there in the evenings when I'm pregnant (or when I have a new baby) because I'm too tired that late, and also the lighting is bad there, when there's no daylight.  I'm going to experiment with other mediums on smaller surfaces that I can easily do from home when I have the time and ambition.  ...and I think that's just how it's going to be while I'm a stay at home mom with little ones.  ...and I'm actually okay with that.  I'm looking forward to something new.  The studio was also my "get out the house for some sanity" activity, but I've realized that I need some more adult interaction and I'm usually by myself at the studio.


I explained everything to my friend and she completely understood.  She really had no idea about the paint thinner being bad to breath (which is crazy, i know!).  She's also trying to get pregnant, so I gave her the info I found and she's looking into switching her materials for her own sake. 



Thanks everyone for your input!

post #17 of 17

Thanks for the update and wishing you a wonderful pregnancy! My rhythms and what I was able to do (time, space, energy wise) changed when I was pregnant and when I had a newborn and that did invigorate my art. I hope it's the some for you and I hope you find activities that give you the get-out-of-the-house-adult-interaction that you are looking for. smile.gif

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