Monday, June 23, 2014

Will Cadmium be banned in artists' paints in Europe?

The European Chemicals Agency is currently consulting on proposed restrictions - a virtual ban - on the use of  Cadmium in artists' paints in Europe. Unless a case is made against the proposal Cadmium might be banned in artists paints and other art materials within a couple of years.

Consultation on the proposed ban on Cadmium in artists' paints in Europe

How the proposed ban came about

Sweden prepared a restriction report on the use of Cadmium in artists paints
The proposed restriction concerns placing on the market and use of cadmium and its
compounds in artists’ paints; TARIC code [3213] and pigments TARIC code [3212]
that could be used for the manufacture of artists’ paints.
This is the 203 page Swedish report (in English) Proposal for a Restriction - Cadmium and its Compounds I Artists Paints
During use and cleaning procedures cadmium based artists’ paint is released to the waste water. At the waste water treatment plant (WWTP) the cadmium pigments will for a predominating part end up in the sewage sludge. Sludge is then applied as
fertiliser in the agriculture. The cadmium compounds used in artists’ paints
will eventually dissolve in the soil (Gustafsson 2013, Appendix 3) and hence there is a potential crop uptake and in the extension exposure to humans via food.

Colours, imitating cadmium, already exist. Cadmium based pigments are mainly substituted by organic pigments. The properties of the organic pigments are in many
ways similar to cadmium colours but cannot be considered identical and thus have to be evaluated on a case - by - case basis by the individual artist.

The alternatives are generally less costly per volume unit but require larger volumes than cadmium based paints. In this report it is assumed that these aspects cancel each other out The proposed restriction will effectively reduce the identified risk.

Consultation on the proposal

You can comment on the proposal before 19 September 2014 - however I suggest you read the commentary by Spectrum Artist Paints first

Click this link to find out how you can give comments

Public consultation on restriction proposal

Anyone can comment on a proposal to restrict a substance. Those most likely to be interested are companies, organisations representing industry or civil society, individual citizens, as well as public authorities.

Comments are welcomed from the EU or beyond.

The public consultation lasts for six months.


Provide your comments within the first three months of the consultation period to ensure that your comments are taken into account when the rapporteurs of ECHA's Risk Assessment Committee (RAC) and the Committee for Socio-Economic Analysis (SEAC) meet three months after the publication of the proposal.

Write your comments in English, if possible.

Response to date from the art community

Spectrum Artists Paints is leading a campaign for cadmium in artists' paints. Read their blog posts
Naturally the manufacturers and distributors of artists' paint are most concerned. Here's some articles about the problem
Artists have also commented. In Complicated Cadmium Botanical Artist Jarnie Godwin comments on the availability of alternative pigments and paints by different manufacturers.

UPDATE - more comments and responses (as at 6th July 2014)

More blog posts of Jackson's Art Blog

Thanks to Gisele Pellegrini for reminding me about this topic and its currency.