Earlier this week, Tracy posted about the toxicity of the materials artists use, and whether or not our paints are really all that much more dangerous than a lot of the substances that we eat or get exposed to every day. It’s a serious topic, and I definitely err on the side of caution now that I’m pregnant, but I just wanted to share a kind of funny story that’s related to the safety of oil paints.
I have a golden retriever named Bailey, who is a bundle of love and enthusiasm, and who was completely insane when she was a puppy. I’m not joking – she was honestly the most hyperactive puppy I have ever seen. I’d never had a dog before Bailey, so I thought maybe all dogs were completely spastic when they were small, but since then I’ve learned otherwise. The antics of my friends’ dogs pale in comparison to the stuff Bailey did when she was little and fluffy. Luckily she was cute, so we loved her anyways.
Anyhow, one of her oh-so-endearing qualities the first year we had her was the tendency to eat anything in sight. Remote control, eyeglasses, paper, plastic bags, dishrags, water bottles, insulation – you name it, she digested it at one time or another.
We have a walkout basement that serves half as my studio and half as a pen for Bailey. She has a nice fenced off area with a doggie door to the backyard, and when she was completely insane as a puppy she would sleep there at night so she couldn’t destroy the house.
One morning we went downstairs and could hear her on the stairs up from the basement. Apparently she had escaped from her pen overnight and had the run of the basement for who knows how long. As soon as I opened the door I knew she’d been in my paints – she had orange paint from one end of her to the other. Paws, mouth, and belly were the unmistakable shade of cadmium orange.
Upon further investigation, I found that my tube of cad orange was missing, and the only sign of it was the orange paint on my dog, more orange paint on the carpet, and the cap. My dog had eaten an entire tube of cadmium orange oil paint, tube and all (apparently the cap didn’t taste so good though?).
I immediately freaked out. Cadmium is toxic!! My dog was going to die of poisoning from ingesting large quantities of a heavy metal!! Being a geeky engineer, the first thing I did was pull the MSDS sheets for the paint to look at the health implications of ingesting a tube of it. I called the vet and the paint company, and both assured me that in the concentration found in oil paint, cadmium is not readily absorbed by the digestive track. Apparently, eating cadmium orange oil paint is not that bad for you – inhaling it is the big risk (i.e. if you sand your paintings). They guessed that it would go right through her without harming her.
Sure enough, 24 hours later my yard was full of dollops of bright orange paint. And I say paint because the stuff was literally the exact same consistency it has straight out of the tube. She didn’t seem affected in any way (well, except when we had to give her the longest bath ever to get the paint out of her hair – then she was a bit grumpy!).
Four years later, she’s healthy as can be – let’s hope it stays that way!!