Cadmium has been given a bit of a Bum Rapp lately. Not that it isn’t nasty. My father had Cadmium poisoning when he was working on aircraft during the war. I think Cadmium stays in the body like Lead does but Cadmium is somewhat easier to get rid of. Cadmium is not generally absorbed through the skin and it’s in minute quantities in artist’s materials, so it’s usually in a form that is considered nontoxic. But even so be careful.
Don’t suck on your brushes and be careful with the water you wash them in. I don’t drink the water but I do wash my brushes regularly in the sink.
I’m re-reading this and I don’t want to give the impression that it’s funny; it isn’t. This site gives an extensive description of the hazards.
I was surprised at the reference to smoking. I don’t smoke so I don’t think about it but paint on your fingers and a pathway into your mouth is a little frightening. My father survived Cadmium poisoning but it could have been lethal and I wouldn’t be here.
Luckily Cadmium can’t be absorbed through the skin and I’m not aware of any art-associated chemicals that could act as a transport mechanism. I’m sure that there are many chemicals in the products we use that could adversely affect our health, so be careful. The painting shown here uses Cadmium Yellow and Cadmium Red extensively.
Dangerous chemicals are not just in the art world. I’m a bit of a gun-nut and in the blueing and case hardening of cast iron frames Cyanide is used. Luckily cast iron is rarely used today. There are lots of stories of gunsmiths simply falling over dead. I’m generally of the opinion that the more deadly the better. If the chemical is really debilitating then I might be really pissed off; however if it’s deadly I probably won’t care.