Despite Law, Many Art Supplies Lack Labels on Toxicity, Study Finds

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WASHINGTON--Many art-supply manufacturers have failed to warn consumers of the toxicity of their products, flouting federal law and possibly endangering schoolchildren, according to a new study.

A sampling of 52 toxic art materials found that 44 percent of them were unlabeled, despite a federal law that went into effect last year requiring detailed descriptions of a product's contents and dangers, according to the study, "Art and the Craft of Avoidance," by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

Only 10 of the products included a manufacturer's telephone number on the label, also required by federal law.

"Children are particularly at risk from exposure ... because their body size is small, their bodies are still developing, and because they may be too young to understand the dangers associated with these products," Lucinda Sikes, the study's author, said in a statement.

The Arts and Crafts Materials Institute in Boston endorsed more stringent labeling but warned that some of the findings may be overstated.

While some of the products, like Pentel correction pens, Glitter Magic, and Tru Bond Rubber Adhesive, might be found in classrooms, many others without labels are more hardware products than art supplies, said Deborah Fanning, the group's executive vice president.

Such supplies should be labeled, she stressed, but because the federal law specifically targets art products, industrial manufacturers may not know about the new regulation. Also, she said, because the products are not perishable, many may have been placed on art-supply and hardware shelves long before labeling was required.

But officials of the consumer group say the new law makes it imperative that these older products be removed from the shelves. Because consumers now expect to see warning labels, an unlabeled product may wrongly be assumed safe, they asserted. The group has forwarded its findings to the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission and has called for federal and state laws banning toxic art supplies in elementary schools and for regulations on their use in secondary schools.

The group is the national lobbying office of state-level public-interest research groups. The groups are nonprofit consumer and environmental research and advocacy organizations.

Copies of the report are available for $6 each from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, 215 Pennsylvania Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. 20003. --J.W.

Vol. 11, Issue 03, Page 8

Published in Print: September 18, 1991, as Despite Law, Many Art Supplies Lack Labels on Toxicity, Study Finds
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