Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Lead follies

In a very interesting paper in the Journal of Chemical Health and Safety titled "The state of the arts: Chemical Safety - 1937 to 2017" [1], longtime DCHAS-L correspondent and art/chemical safety expert Monona Rossol tells about her history in the arts and safety, including this rather hair-raising story:
A number of sculpture students, including myself, got acute lead poisoning when we were taught to make "dripped lead sculpture". We melted junk yard lead indoors without ventilation, cast it into bars, and used an acetylene torch to remelt the bars and drip the lead into our molds. We thought we had some kind of flu that caused the vomiting and diarrhea. No one in the art department, including me at that time, knew that an invisible fume of tiny lead oxide particles is emitted into the air when lead melts. And since the first effects of lead exposure are to lower the IQ, it may explain why I still remained in art school. 
Yikes! Artists do funny things for art.

1. Rossol, M. "The state of the arts: Chemical safety - 1937 to 2017." J. Chem. Health Saf. 2018, 25 (2), 18-27.


  1. this is not a typical lead poisoning but most likely metal fume fever

  2. The art dept at my PhD institution is getting some of the empty space in the old chem building so they can do things in fume hoods.