Risk Assessment Considerations for Art and Craft Materials - Focus on California Regulation Updates

Posted on Behalf of  Eduardo Encina, Jillian Parker

In the context of a standard risk assessment, children represent a sensitive subpopulation, and may be considered more susceptible to unique exposure pathways compared to adults. Children are generally less cognizant of personal hygiene standards and typically engage in frequent hand-to-mouth behaviors, an exposure pathways not typically included in safety and risk assessments for chemicals or products geared toward adults (Au, 2002). Because of their small size, high metabolic rates, and developing organs, children can be uniquely susceptible to toxicological exposures (OEHHA, 2019). Some evidence suggests that early chemical exposures to toddlers and children may have a greater potential for adverse nervous, endocrine, or reproductive system consequences, since children have an inherent vulnerability to these harmful exposures, as well as the potential for an increased exposure duration, which may influence disease development later in life (WHO, 2010; Woodruff et al. 2004; Landrigan and Miodovnik, 2011). These unique considerations should be taken into account when performing a risk assessment of chemicals or products intended for use by children, such as art and craft materials.

In 1990, Congress passed the Labeling of Hazardous Art Materials Act (LHAMA), which requires that art materials be evaluated for their potential to cause chronic health hazards to consumers (ACMI, 2021). This Act requires that art material product labels conform to specific testing standards, and provides specific precautionary statements and product label language for describing any chronic health hazards associated with using the art materials (15 USC §1277). Art materials intended for consumer use at all ages must comply with many federal law requirements, but those designed or intended for children 12 years of age or younger must also meet additional requirements (CPSC, Undated). Recent updates have been made to these requirements in California (CA), with the state’s Education Code prohibiting schools from purchasing art or craft materials for use in grades Kindergarten to 6th (K-6) that containwhat they define as “toxic” substances.(Cal. Education Code § 32064; OEHHA, 2019). A “toxic” substance is broadly defined as one with the capacity to produce personal injury or illness via ingestion, inhalation, or absorption (Cal. Health and Safety Code § 108145; Cal. Education Code § 32064). In addition, art materials sold in California must also comply with The Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 (also known as Proposition 65), which requires businesses to warn consumers of potential exposure to chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm (OEHHA, 2018).

As part of California Education Code § 32064, the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) developed a full list of products that schools are prohibited from having teachers buy for use by K-6 students (OEHHA, 2021). This list of prohibited art and crafts materials spans a variety of product types, including adhesives (e.g., glue; rubber cement; spray adhesives), brush care products (e.g., mineral spirits; turpentine), ceramics and sculpting materials e.g. clay; plaster, glazes), cleaners, solvents, drawing and coloring supplies, and paints. These prohibited products all have specific ingredients and corresponding warning label statements that warranted their placement on this list. One class of ingredients found in glue, paint thinners, and lacquers, for example, are volatile organic compounds (VOCs) (EPA, 2020; CDC, 2009). The adverse effects following exposure to VOCs are varied, and include potential neurological and developmental effects, endocrine system disruption, or cancer, depending on exposure amount and duration, among other variables (CDC, 2009). Other art materials, such as paint, may contain small amounts of preservatives (e.g., formaldehyde or bleach) or propellants (CPSC, Undated). Because each product and potential exposure scenario is unique, however, a health and safety professional, such as a board-certified toxicologist (DABT), should perform a safety evaluation (e.g., LHAMA or Proposition 65 review)  in order to determine if an increased risk of adverse health effects exists following the use of such art and craft materials, specifically with respect to children. The outcome of this analysis can then guide the selection of the most appropriate language to include on product labels in order to ensure adequate human health protection.

Cardno ChemRisk scientists have extensive experience performing exposure and safety assessments for consumer products in order to determine compliance with the LHAMA and Proposition 65 regulations, as well as with providing recommendations pertaining to human health. Dr. Annette Santamaria is a board-certified toxicologist, and has performed numerous arts and crafts material reviews and evaluations with respect to LHAMA and other Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) regulations. Please contact Dr. Annette Santamaria or Dr. Ernest Fung for more information regarding Cardno ChemRisk’s capabilities.