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In my very popular non toxic oil painting video I pointed out that it would be best to remove all oil paints that have heavy metals. This included flake white, which has led, and the cadmium paints. Like cadmium red, cadmium yellow etc…
Since then I’ve gotten a lot of artists asking if the smell of those oils paints are toxic. The short answer is no. As long as there are no solvents in the heavy metal paints you can breathe in their smell without inhaling the heavy metals.
The reason why heavy metals can be toxic is if you are a messy painter and you get the oil paints all over you. Even then it’s only bad if you have unhealthy skin. This would be skin with cuts, deep abrasions or any other dermatological issues that would allow chemicals to pass through the epidermis and dermis layers of your skin.
Although I’ve seen some very messy oil painters accidentally eat paint by putting brushes in their mouth to hold them…. If you need a bath after you paint, just go with acrylics.
Also, NEVER aerosolized oil paints. Don’t thin them out and put them in a spray bottle or use them in an air brush. There are a whole host of inhalation issues there that I won’t go into especially with flake white.
Lead is very bad. It’s the reason why all cars use unleaded gas now and your pencils use graphite instead of lead. And I’m sorry but I’ve tried lead white for years and the difference between it and other whites is negligible at best. NOT worth the health risk.
The one thing that you need to be aware of if you replace your cadmium paints with alternative colors is that many of the other colors will not be opaque. But I’ve got you covered there. I’ve replaced my cadmium yellow with hansa yellow medium and my cadmium red light with napthol scarlet. Both hansa yellow medium and napthol scarlet are semi transparent and I’ve found work wonderfully for fully covering the canvas. Plus the semi transparency adds a lot of depth to your painting. And most of my mixtures involve titanium white which makes any semi transparent paint just as opaque as their cadmium counterparts.
If you want to see the full process I use with those exact colors on a painting tutorial and no solvents check out this painting tutorial here.
Thanks and have a great week!