Volume 16, Number 3, Sept 1994, p.14

Health and Safety

by Chris Stavroudis

Everyone should add Art Hazards News and ACTS Facts to their list of publications to read. For those of you who haven't subscribed - here is a taste of what you are missing.

ACTS FACTS (Vol. 8, no. 7; July 1994) reports that the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) proposes to reduce the TLV-TWA (Threshold Limit Value - Time Weighted Average) for acetone to 200 ppm. That is a significant reduction from the current 750 ppm value. The TLV-STEL (Short Term Exposure Limit) for acetone would also be reduced from 1000 ppm to 400 ppm. If the recommendations of the Notice of Intended Change (NIC, a different one) are adopted, the solvent will also receive an A4, "not classifiable as a carcinogen" rating.

The article does not describe the reason for the significant reduction in acetone's TLVs. This is something I will look into and report in a future column. It is disturbing to find that the health risks associated with what we considered to be one of our safest solvents is being reconsidered.

The TLV-TWA for benzene has also being slated for a downward revision. This is not a concern for us as no one should be using benzene in a conservation studio. [Remember the old saw: "Benzene is mean, benzine is fine." Well, not fine, but nowhere near as mean anyway.] Monona Rossol, the ACTS FACTS Editor, points out that "Artists are only likely to be exposed to benzene if they misuse gasoline as a solvent."

The Center of Safety in the Arts (CSA) has published the 1994 Special Resource Issue of Arts Hazards News (Vol. 17, No. 2). Health and Safety Resources of the Arts is "a select compilation of occupational health and safety organizations, agencies and institutions which provide services of interest to visual and performing artists." The list was compiled by Angela Babin, M.S. of CSA.

The list contains state by state listings of resources in the following categories: Occupational Health Clinics; Arts Medical Services; Regional Poison Control Centers; Safety Supply Sources; National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Offices; Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Offices; Committees on Occupational Safety and Health (COSH) Groups; Household Hazardous Waste Programs and Contacts; Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Regional Offices; Other Resources; and Center for Safety in the Arts Publications.

I continue to hear positive response to Rosamond Westmoreland's article "Cumulative Trauma Disorders: Some Cautions for Conservators" and my "Facts about Cumulative Trauma Disorders" in the May 1993 WAAC Newsletter and about the excellent article in the September issue "Hand, Arm & Shoulder Stretches" by Jean E. Anderson and Bob Anderson of Stretching, Inc.

Sadly, I also continue to hear of friends and colleagues with CTD and other musculoskeletal problems that are related to our professional work. If you are not displaying any symptoms, exercise is great. Personally, I like yoga. [WAAC member Linda Shaffer recommended I give it a try after she read the articles.] However almost any exercise program is beneficial. To quote the shoes, Just do it.

If you are having problems with your body, consult a good specialist. The stories I have heard with happy endings all have a common thread: finding a doctor, clinic, or program which understands the work we do and is willing to do everything possible to help. Shop around. Research. Be proactive. For inspiration, see the article "When the Work You Do Ends Up Costing You an Arm and a Leg" by Richard Wolkomir in the June issue of Smithsonian. You could even consult the Art Hazards News's Resources listing under Arts Medicine Services or Occupational Health Clinics, for starters.

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