The leaves are turning and Mother Nature has flung open her paint box. The country side is swathed in glorious colors. Like squirrels, we also begin storing up supplies for our holiday and winter projects. As you make out your shopping list don't forget the safety aspects.

Many of the safety issues have been taken care of for us by removing hazardous chemicals from the products. We all can have a variety of reactions associated with chemicals or airborne particles. One person may be able to use latex gloves, the next may have to use vinyl. Some may react to mineral spirits, others to wood dust. The key to safety in any restoration project is education and ventilation.

Read the label of the product. If it states that there may be side effects, take the precautions recommended. There are new organic products on the market that can be substituted for the traditional ones. However, some people may be allergic to a product made from oranges, and yet not have a reaction to similar petroleum based product. If you experience any symptoms such as headaches, nausea, dizziness, and irritation to the eyes, nose and throat discontinue the use of the product. Look for a substitute product or provide better ventilation or equipment such as masks and gloves to block the irritation.

Take note of the reaction at the beginning of the project. As in a perfume, your body will acclimate to the odor. This can be good or bad. If you don't notice the smell, you may not notice the hazard.

In painting, the ventilation should be drawing the fumes away from you, not blowing fresh air onto you and your project. All fumes are heavier than air so the "draw" should be at floor level. Any material may become harmful in excess, from the dust of pastel chalk to the airborne fibers of textiles and paper.

Your rule of thumb is: If you can inhale or absorb it and it isn't fresh air or clean water, proceed with CAUTION and COMMON SENSE!

If you are restoring antiques, make sure your Tetanus shot is current. Rusty nails and screws are a hazard as well.

An inexpensive kit can be purchased at your paint dealer to test old paint for lead. It is easy and simple to use. They now recommend that you seal off the lead paint, if possible, rather than remove or sand. If this is not an option, wear the RECOMMENDED masks and gloves when sanding or stripping.

Here are a few tips:

  • Avoid using solvents to clean your hands and skin.
  • Wash off all paint with soap, warm water and a soft scrub brush.
  • Follow with a good lotion containing lanolin or other conditioners to keep your skin healthy.
  • Use a barrier cream to block solvents from skin. (Make sure the cream is not transferred to the paint project)
  • Wear plastic, vinyl or latex gloves for extra protection.
  • Wear a mask if conditions warrant it - such as when using inhalants, propellants, or when dust or mist are present.

Just by taking a few precautions you can safely proceed with your winter and holiday projects. These safety procedures will become second nature to you, just like fastening your seat belt!



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Bette Largent is a professional carousel horse restoration artist from Washington State, and the author of Paint The Ponies, a guide for those who are interested in learning the art of painting carousel figures.

Click Here for information on ordering her book.


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