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Last week we received a reader-question from an art teacher and newly expecting mom, in Texas. Since about half of the AOE Writing Team has had a baby in the past 3 years, including me, I decided to pass the question around and assemble a quick list of safety tips every pregnant art teacher should consider..
An AOE Fan Writes:
Now that my husband and I are thinking of adding to our family, it has me thinking a lot about the various materials I come into contact with and how pregnancy may affect my job. I haven’t been able to find any clear cut resources, but I thought maybe you might have some advice or past experience that might give me a better idea about what would be considered safe vs. dangerous in the high school art room. I’m using common sense of course, but never hurts to ask!
Tip #1: Websites like Blick have MSDS sheets on their website, like this one for Speedball Photo Emulsion & sensitizer (for screen printing). This makes it easy to look up an item that may send up a red flag in your mind. Here is the link to Blick’s Health and Safety page.
Tip #2: There is a document online called Art Room Safety, from the Panhandle Area Educational Consortium in Florida that is pretty great. It lists major (catastrophic) risks and has a great checklist for hazardous things to look for.
Tip #3: Wash your hands (A LOT) and wear gloves. Invest in a cheap pair of cleaning gloves and wear those whenever you feel unsafe about something (like glaze). Hand washing also helps prevent overall germs from spreading.
Tip #4: Sit down when possible. You can teach from a chair (even with kindergartners) and save some of your energy especially if you have heath issues like varicose veins or dizzy spells.
Tip #5: Be safe around clay and ceramics. Several safety articles can be found on Digitalfire Reference Database specific to clay. Some are more about mixing glazes, but this one gives a pretty good overview of the possible hazards of clay, ventilation during firing, and keeping a neat and clean studio.
Tip #6: Watch out for fumes. Keep your hood vent running more often (not just during ceramics) such as when you are using Sharpies or paint with a pungent smell.
Tip #7: Be aware of the dark room. There are also a bunch of darkroom safety websites, checklists, etc. This one has some good info to draw from. Ilford has a general safe practices page and a page devoted to pregnancy and lists its MSDS sheets online also.
The best tip, however, is to generally take care of yourself. Think about your energy and overall heath. Get to bed early. Eat frequent, nutritious meals, and be sure to take some time for yourself. Find a quiet space in your day (even if it’s 5 minutes) to enjoy a quiet moment. This can be beneficial both mentally and physically.
What other safe pregnancy tips would you add to the list?
Psstt.. We are not health experts – just art teachers like you trying to gather some helpful hints. Please check with your healthcare provider for more detailed information pertaining to you and your individual heath situation.