Health & Safety

1. The Product



Schmincke employs various binders, additives and pigments to produce artists' paints which are suitable for watercolour, oil and pastel painting. The company's range also includes articles for producing one's own paints. These are aqueous binders (gum arabic, casein), oils, various organic and inorganic pigments and various media for acrylic painting - primarily in paste form.For painting purposes, binder additives (painting media) are often added to the paints, and the finished paintings - primarily in the area of oil painting - are provided with a varnish coating. The oils and resins contained in the painting media and varnishes are generally dissolved in a solvent (white spirit or ethanol). Ethyl alcohol-based fixatives are employed for chalk and pencil drawings.


2. Hazardous Substances


As stated in the description of products (section 1), organic solvents are employed for various products when water cannot be used due to incompatibility with oils and resins. Painters also use pigments directly in powder form when grinding their own paints. Apart from water and linseed or sunflower oil, organic solvents - usually turpentine substitute - may be used here, too, according to the type of binder involved.The organic solvents most commonly employed by painters are potentially flammable or explosive, have a narcotic effect when inhaled and deplete the skin's natural grease content. They enter into the human body not only via the inhalation of fumes, but also through the skin. Excessive inhalation of fumes may lead to irritation of the mucous membranes, headaches, and may ultimately damage the lungs, liver or central nervous system. Prolonged contact with the skin may cause irritation or inflammation.Inhaling dusts which arise when working with powder pigments may cause irritation to the mucous membranes. Dusts which enter into the eyes may also cause irritation here, as a result of mechanical effects. Similar hazards apply when working with pastel crayons and extenders.

The following substances and chemicals are used by painters but are not available from manufacturers of artists' paints:


  • acids,
  • alkalis (e.g. hydrochloric acid, ammonia, etc.),
  • bleaching agents,
  • soda,
  • borax,
  • glycol.

These substances are caustic and cause irritation to the mucous membranes.

Further information is to be found in sections 3 and 6.*) In this context, the term is employed to denote substances which are potentially dangerous, and not only substances which are defined by law as being fundamentally hazardous.


3. Correct handling of hazardous substances (safety)


Painters require to protect themselves primarily from solvent fumes and dust. A well ventilated room represents a preventive measure here. When substantial quantities of dust are involved, a dust mask of filter class 2 is to be worn, while masks with filter type A2 and protective breathing equipment of filter class 2-P2 provide a suitable means of protection against substantial quantities of solvent fumes. Filter class 2-P2 also affords protection against solid and liquid particles in the air. A further means of protection involves the use of a suitable extraction hood equipped with filters for the substance concerned, that is, appropriate fine-pored absorption mats for dust and appropriate activated charcoal filters for solvent fumes.When using turpentine oil, contact with the skin and eyes is also to be avoided. The same applies when handling caustic substances such as acids and alkalis. Safety goggles and suitable protective gloves (made of chloroprene, nitrile or viton) offer the right protection against these substances.A further means of protecting the skin of the hands from the effects of solvents involves the use of skin protection creams, which form a protective film which cannot be dissolved in the solvent concerned. For hands which are exposed to aggressive agents it is, of course, also expedient to use skin care products on a regular basis.With regard to solvents (ethanol, white spirit, acetone, turpentine oil, etc.), the potential risk of fire is also to be considered. This is particularly important when applying paints containing solvents by means of sprayguns and when using aerosprays. Smoking is prohibited when handling solvents and preparations containing solvents, and sparks and naked lights are to be avoided. Here again, good ventilation constitutes a good preventive measure, whereby the above-stated safety requirements (no sparks, no naked lights) are always to be observed.


  • P2 denotes particle filters of medium filtration efficiency,
  • A2 denotes gas filters for organic gases and fumes of medium filtration efficiency,
  • 2-P2 denotes combined filters of medium filtration efficiency for gases, fumes and particles.


4. Product labeling (how, why)


According to the nature of the substances involved, hazardous substances may enter the human body via inhalation, swallowing or absorption through the skin. In this context, the "nature" of the substance is defined by its physical state - solid, liquid or gaseous. A distinction is made between gases, fumes, mists, dusts, liquids and solids, which may enter the human body in one of the above-stated ways and thus become a health risk.

Appropriate labelling of the products, indicating potential dangers and providing advice on how to avert such dangers, enables the user to take precautionary measures to prevent hazardous materials from entering the body, thus averting potential dangers. To this end, it is essential to follow the danger instructions and to acquire a general understanding of the potential dangers by reference to the safety information. Danger symbols on an orange background provide an additional clear visual indication of the dangers involved.

Solvents, varnishes and fixatives are often flammable or slightly flammable (flame symbol), and in some cases such products are also harmful to the health (diagonal cross, Xn) or irritant (diagonal cross, Xi).

The danger marking Xi indicates substances and preparations which, though not caustic, may cause inflammation as a result of short, prolonged or recurrent contact with the skin or mucous membranes.

"Harmful" indicates substances and preparations which may cause death or acute or chronic damage to the health as a result of inhalation, swallowing or absorption through the skin.

AEROSOL cans are pressurised and contain highly flammable propellants and the active agent, which is generally dissolved in a combustible (flammable) solvent. These cans are provided with the flame symbol and the F+ sign, indicating the particularly high flammability of the contents and the attendant increased risk of fire when spraying the contents of the can.

Mention should also be made of the symbol "Caustic, C", which is not normally applicable for artists' materials.

To summarize:

Substances and preparations which represent health risks are indicated by means of the danger symbol on an orange background and the appurtenant danger marking (e.g. flame symbol with the letter F) and the R phrases (risk phrases - also referred to above as danger instructions) and the S phrases (safety phrases - also known as safety recommendations).

The symbols Xi (irritant), Xn (harmful), F+ (highly flammable) and F (slightly flammable) and C (caustic) have been explained in detail in the above text.

Less readily flammable substances or preparations - e.g. varnishes or painting media - are indicated by the word "Flammable" without a danger symbol.


5. Health aspects 


Toxicology is defined as the study of the harmful effects of chemical substances on living organisms. The word "poison" is generally employed to denote substances which involve a relatively large risk of harm. Factors to be taken into consideration here are the dose, form of exposure and duration of exposure. It is an established fact that any substance may have a poisonous effect, according to the dosage.

The poison intake is dependent on the concentration (quantity) and the duration of exposure at the site of intake. With regard to the respiratory passages, the intake is also dependent on the particle size. Only particles with an aerodynamic diameter of less than5 µ (fine dusts) are capable of penetrating into the deepest regions of the bronchial system, the alveoli. Larger particles are separated beforehand in the bronchial tree and are resorbed here or discharged from the body by the bronchial system's self-cleaning system.

A distinction is made between acute and chronic poisoning. High individual doses generally lead to acute poisoning, while chronic poisoning typically results from the combined effect of continually repeated small doses. In the course of chronic, i.e. repeated poison intake, the substance may accumulate in the body and after the end of exposure it may be discharged quickly or slowly, or may remain in the body.

Allergic reactions play a major role with regard to the effects of chemical substances on the skin and the bronchial system. An allergy is defined as individual hypersensitivity which is based on an antigen-antibody reaction and is not dependent on a particular concentration.Highly concentrated acids and alkalis and certain organic compounds constitute irritant or caustic substances. Examples here are sulphuric acid, hydrochloric acid and other acids, sodium hydroxide solution, caustic potash solution, ammonia, formaldehyde. When the skin is wetted with such substances, the extent of irritation or burning is dependent on the concentration of the irritant, the duration of exposure and the area of exposure - in other words, the dose. Superficial skin damage may occur in the form of reddening or blistering. More extensive destruction of the skin and the underlying tissue may also occur, however.

Although organic solvents have no specific toxic properties, their main effect is to induce a state of intoxication and, in larger concentrations, narcosis. Prolonged exposure to high concentrations involves a risk of death due to respiratory paralysis in the state of narcosis. Chronic damage to the health is observable in the area of the liver and the nervous system as a result of prolonged exposure to halogenated hydrocarbons, alcohols and other solvents.

Inhaling dusts may inflict chronic damage on the respiratory passages. Even so-called inert dusts (i.e. dusts without a toxic effect) act as foreign matter and may thus cause irritation to the respiratory organs. Dusts are able to penetrate into various regions of the lung and bronchial system, according to the dust particle size. Dusts with an aerodynamic diameter of < 5 µ are referred to as fine dusts (see above) and may form part of the total inhalable volume of dust. As they cannot be discharged directly, fine dusts may have toxic, chemically irritant or allergizing effects. Quartz dust and asbestos fibres are examples here. The toxicity of numerous heavy metals is based on a highly varied range of effects in the human organism. Changes in the blood picture, muscle spasms, damage to the nervous system and the kidneys, insomnia, etc. have been observed in cases of lead or mercury poisoning, for example.These notes provide drastic illustration of the possible effects of severely health-damaging (toxic) substances or preparations. They also indicate how the frequent intake of less toxic (so-called harmful) can lead to chronic symptoms or allergic reactions, however. At this point, it is appropriate to stress once again the importance of complying with occupational hygiene requirements and observing warnings and safety advice on product labels.


6. Procedures in case of danger / First aid


Injured persons (including those showing signs of poisoning) are to be removed from the danger area. The helpers must first verify that they themselves are not exposed to danger. Medical assistance is then to be summoned by calling the emergency services and - if possible - the following emergency measures are to be undertaken while awaiting the arrival of the emergency services:

  • Provide a supply of fresh air
  • Undo tight clothing
  • Remove wetted items of clothing
  • Rinse wetted skin with plenty of water
  • Rinse eyes under lukewarm running water or using an eye douche bottle. The eyelids are to be held open and the uninjured eye is to be protected from acids, for example, which have injured the other eye
  • Unconscious persons are to be placed in a stable lateral position
  • In case of respiratory arrest, carry out mouth-to-nose or mouth-to-mouth resuscitation or mask resuscitation with respiratory bag
  • In case of cardiac arrest, carry out cardiac pressure massage on the breastbone at approx. 100 strokes per minute and a weight of 25 to 50 kg.

In cases of caustic burning, remove contaminated clothing and rinse skin with plenty of water. The skin is also to be washed and rinsed if it has come into contact with other toxic or skin-resorbable substances.


7. Legislation


Chemical law, which is concerned with the area of chemistry and those involved with chemistry, is an umbrella term covering an entire range of legal provisions enacted by the competent legislative bodies, in the form of the Bundestag (lower house of the German parliament) and the parliaments of Germany's various federal states. Germany's membership of the European Union continually gives rise to new aspects and attendant directives which are applied in the manner of laws at national level.

The entire scope of legal provisions falls within the area of public law and comprises various laws, ordinances, EU regulations and EU directives.

The most important and most comprehensive ordinance in the area of chemical law is the ordinance on hazardous substances (GefStoffV) which, together with the ordinance on the prohibition of chemicals, regulates the marketing and handling of hazardous substances. The ordinance on hazardous substances is binding for companies which manufacture and market products for the general public and stipulates the classifications, packaging and labelling requirements for hazardous substances and preparations. This ordinance thus regulates the labelling of products etc. described in point 4 above. The basic principles of the ordinance on hazardous substances are defined as follows: "The object of this ordinance is to protect humans from work-related and other health risks and to protect the environment from substance-induced damage, and in particular to render such hazardous substances identifiable, to avert the attendant risks and to prevent such substances from arising, by means of regulations on the classification, labelling and packaging of hazardous substances, preparations and certain products and on the handling of hazardous substances.........". This outlines the obligations of production and distribution companies towards the public with regard to hazardous substances.


8. The chemical industry - position and responsibillity


The Conference on Environment and Development which was held in Rio de Janeiro by the UN's environmental organisation, UNEP, in 1992 defined the "guiding principle of sustainable development" as a common objective to be pursued by the international community. The chemical industry is committed to this principle worldwide by means of a programme for responsible action covering the safety and protection of humans and the environment, occupational safety and consumer safety. The ambit of this programme thus also includes product responsibility with regard to labelling, transportation and distribution, which in specific terms may entail preventing hazardous substances or substituting hazardous substances with less hazardous alternatives, where this is possible.

In this context, the chemical industry promotes the personal sense of responsibility for the environment among its entire workforce, thereby instilling a heightened awareness of safety aspects with regard to products and production operations.

The "Responsible Care" initiative also accords due consideration to maintaining a dialogue with the public and explains the objectives and the appurtenant measures. This area of work also includes reviewing and updating of the level of knowledge with regard to legislation and the state of the art, accompanied by corresponding internal and external measures, e.g. in the areas of occupational safety and the labelling of hazardous substances and preparations.

The Responsible Care initiative is not a management system but a strategy for day-to-day practice which is aimed at attaining sustainable effects. In adopting this initiative, the companies of the chemical industry have taken a pivotal decision in favour of a development process in pursuit of the above-stated objectives, which are subject to ongoing revision in the interests of sustainable development. The guidelines are binding on the basis of the current law on product responsibility, plant and occupational safety, health protection, environmental protection and public information.