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Is encaustic painting toxic?

Proper safety precautions need to be exercised in every artist’s studio to reduce the risk of exposure to toxic substances.

With adequate ventilation and a working temperature that is under 200°F, encaustic is a safe medium to work with. It is important to use a thermometer to keep a check on your temperature. Encaustic fumes, when released at a safe temperature, are not considered dangerous. Yet, all wax mediums, when heated, do release fumes.

Beeswax has a lovely natural smell and, if kept at the correct temperature, the effect of wax fumes is minimal. Only heat encaustic medium to the melting point, never to the point of smoking. Some people are more sensitive to wax fumes than others. If you develop headaches or respiratory irritation, try working outside or improve the ventilation inside your studio.

When making your own encaustic medium, make sure you use damar resin crystals—not damar varnish which is toxic.

Encaustic painting is solvent-free, eliminating the need for turpentine, mineral spirits, or oily rags in the studio.

Microcrystalline is a petroleum-based wax that will give off vapours in the molten stage. If you use microcrystalline medium instead of the traditional beeswax medium, extra consideration should be taken to provide proper ventilation.

Proper ventilation in the encaustic studio will significantly reduce potential hazards in the encaustic studio, open a window, or install a reverse fan or fume hood. Using a Vent-a-Fume which has been designed for use in an encaustic studio is highly recommended.

For more information about encaustic safety please see The Artist’s Complete Health and Safety Guide

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