Are PanPastel Colors Nontoxic?

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All things are poison, and nothing is without poison; the dosage alone makes it so a thing is not a poison. —Paracelsus, 1538

If just joining the community of Golden Artist Colors product line users, one might not know we avoid the term “nontoxic.” It implies an absolute guarantee, and its promise seems in opposition to labeling statements on many of the color labels stating “WARNING: This product contains a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer,” or, currently for Europe, “Warning! Hazardous respirable dust may be formed when used. Do not breathe dust.”

A good answer to the “nontoxic” question requires a little more than a “yes” or “no.” The long answer:  PanPastel Colors contain no material in sufficient quantity known to be toxic or injurious to health. Meaning, in accordance with United States Federal law and consistent with the United Nations system of Global Harmonization of hazard identification and communication, the product formulas have been carefully evaluated by an independent toxicologist and, from everything known about the chemical components, the toxicologist has determined that based on their toxicity and concentration in the product, along with the anticipated use of the products, they are not deemed to present an acute or chronic health hazard. Assurance of this is provided on every label with the statement “Conforms to ASTM D 4236“. However, that does not mean the products are without ingredients that have toxicity data associated with them. 

In practice, this makes it possible for the California “Prop 65” warning above to exist on a label for products that are actually very safe to use. The product may contain one or more components on California’s list of known carcinogens, but not at a concentration or anticipated exposure to the user that would be poisonous, i.e., acutely or chronically toxic. Regardless, the State of California requires us to apply the Warning statements. The components in the PanPastel line that are on the California list are Titanium Dioxide, Carbon Black, and Crystalline Silica, all of which make the list in the context of “airborne particles of respirable size,” generally acknowledged to be a particulate size of less than 10 microns, but this is an inexact number. The reality is that PanPastel is a particulate product that can be inhaled during use, but again, “the dose makes the poison,” and we are comfortable with the toxicologist’s assessment of safety that there is no hazard with anticipated use.

We’ve long advised that breathing any dust or mists generated by the use of our products be avoided as a matter of good chemical hygiene. If a product does indeed have some potential for toxicity, as with airborne cadmium pigments, we do not use them. For example, GOLDEN Fluid and High Flow Acrylic product lines do not contain cadmium pigments in order to avoid the possibility of user exposure from airbrush applications. Likewise, cadmium pigments are not used in the PanPastel Colors. 

Our most conservative advice remains to avoid breathing dust from using PanPastel Color and avoid hand-to-mouth contact to avoid ingestion. Perhaps work vertically, so there is no need to blow dust off the work or consider a simple respirator if there are signs the material is getting inhaled. However, we know work practices vary greatly, and exposure to dust during pastel use is to be expected. Therefore, PanPastel Colors are formulated to be safe with these work practices in mind. For additional Health and Safety considerations, you can consult our Safety Data Sheet.