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Eduardo Luiz, "Rouge Cadmium" (1985) (photo by Bosc d'Anjou/Flickr)

Eduardo Luiz, “Rouge Cadmium” (1985) (photo by Bosc d’Anjou/Flickr)

The European Union is considering a ban on the cadmium pigment in artists’ paints, The Art Newspaper reported. The commenting period on a restriction proposal with the European Chemical Agency (ECA) closed September 19, and if the measure is adopted when the agency makes its decision in December, the highly toxic pigment could be banned from oil, acrylic, and watercolor paints within two years. The initial 197-page dossier calling for the ban was submitted with the ECA by the Swedish Chemicals Agency in December 2013.

The Swedish report documents the toxicities of the popular pigment, which helps achieve bright yellows, reds, and oranges. Michael Craine, managing director of Spectrum Artists’ Paints, an independent British manufacturer of artists’ paints, told The Art Newspaper that the loss of the pigment would prove aesthetically devastating: “The alternatives are not replacement pigments … They lack the vibrancy of cadmium colours, are muddy-looking and disappointing.”

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Mostafa Heddaya

Mostafa Heddaya is the former managing editor of Hyperallergic.

20 replies on “Red on Alert as EU Mulls Cadmium Ban”

  1. Why ban when it’s thousand times easier to wear gloves and masks?? And I you can always have some kind of bodysuit to protect your entire body if you’re going to paint an entire room or something that’s taller than you (or you just want to be 100 % safe).

  2. Is the purpose of the ban to protect artists from themselves, or to protect the environment and water supply from artists?

  3. This is a sane and rational decision. While artists may be happy with these risks, one has to think of the dangers to a child who eats an oil painting.

  4. Yes by all means lets get rid of this toxic substance, “Cadmium is also an environmental hazard. Human exposures to
    environmental cadmium are primarily the result of fossil fuel
    combustion, phosphate fertilizers, natural sources, iron and steel
    production, cement production and related activities, nonferrous metals
    production, and municipal solid waste incineration. Bread, root crops, and vegetables also contribute to the cadmium in modern populations.” -Wikipedia

  5. I think we all know how to use Cadmium
    carefully………..simply keep it off your skin and out of your mouth.

  6. Here’s a painting I did about cad red. I use gloves, I don’t put it in my mouth, I recycle it with hazardous materials. I hope it’s okay

  7. If I promise to eat the GMO foods and not my paints…. will you leave them alone.
    Really???…. this is a priority in a world infused with toxic foods.

  8. I read some years ago that the pigments are mined by low wage, unprotected workers (as usual), and they are the ones who are in the most danger. If that is true, our health is not the only issue when deciding on the value of these colors. I have been trying out Napthols and other substitutes since, and some of these are damn good. Golden Artist Colors has a lot of info and seems to want to find safer colors that will make us happy.

    1. If the ban on cadmium pigments is accompanied by a ban on cadmium in batteries, then I can believe that there are good reasons for it. I love pyrrole red for a warm red, and hansa yellow has been working for me as a substitute for cadmium.

  9. I think there’s a lot more to this that is not being made open to the public because it doesn’t make sense. Follow the money and I bet it would all unfold. I love napthol red myself- but a ban- that’s extreme and for what? There’s so much more out there that is far more dangerous. How about nuclear power plants?

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