Why your average polymer clay design is bad for your lobes, and your health!
Here’s a good article that breaks down the ingredients of polymer clay:
Basic points of the article:
The qualities of polymer clay are due to its primary ingredient, polyvinyl chloride (PVC)—a type of plastic also known as vinyl. PVC is considered the most toxic plastic. During manufacture and when burned, PVC creates a highly toxic byproduct called dioxin, a potent carcinogen and endocrine disruptor.
In the case of soft PVC, such as that used in polymer clay, phthalates are added to make the PVC pliable. Phthalates are a group of chemicals that have been linked with birth defects, reproductive problems, liver and thyroid damage and other health problems. Some are believed to cause cancer.
Because of these qualities, those who work with polymer clay should protect themselves with gloves, a designated work area for clay only that is frequently cleaned, and a respirator when baking (curing) the clay. Fortunately manufacturers of the clays have begun reworking the ingredients and most now have less toxic plasticizers, as is required by CPSC CPSIA. Most people will probably think, “Kids put things in their mouths, I don’t. I’m not using the clay when it’s uncured, I’m wearing it after it’s cured.”
Well, if polymer clay isn’t properly cured, the clay will remain moist on the inside which gives these toxins a chance to leech outward to the wearable portions of jewelry. It can happen really easily because even cured polymer clay is porous. The good news is that the Art & Creative Materials Institute teamed with Duke University Medical Center wanted to address safety concerns [source: http://duketox.mc.duke.edu/recenttoxissues.htm ] and found that irritation is most likely to occur through ingestion and not skin contact.
To summarize, properly handled/cured polymer clay should not be of danger to those that use or wear it. But because these studies were conducted in scientific settings that do not involve body modification, it is important to consider that piercings involve sensitive or compromised tissue. The safest choice is to wear the (properly cured) clay through eyelets of another material. Properly cured clay will be firm with a bit of give, but not flexible enough to bend, and of course not burnt or browned. The precaution I believe to be most important is keeping raw clay in a separated area from finished jewelry and materials. Changing gloves during production can help prevent toxins from uncured clay to transfer onto the wearable area of finished jewelry.
As for “glazed” or “glossed” polymer clay, check out the ingredients. A popular Sculpey brand glaze has this on the label:
WARNING: This product contains a chemical known to the State of California to cause birth defects or other reproductive harm. WARNING: May be harmful if swallowed. Contains: N-METHYL PYRROLIDONE
Many others choose to use an Acrylic Coating spray fixative. We wear acrylic, so that sounds friendly, right? Here is a popular Krylon brand’s warning label:
CAUTIONS CONTAINS ACETONE, HYDROCARBON PROPELLANTS, TOLUENE, ETHYL 3-ETHOXYPROPIONATE, MEDIUM AROMATIC HYDROCARBONS … Causes eye, skin, nose and throat irritation. Avoid contact with eyes and skin.Wash hands after using.
It also lists the same California birth defect chemical warning. Moral of the story, skip the glazes, take caution with unglazed clay, never use this material in unhealed piercings, and choose a retailer that knows how to keep you safe.
Think twice before you buy polymer clay from Etsy, a friend, or someone else who doesn’t undertake the specified standards that have to be done in order for polymer clay to be safe.
- Petra / BabyPieTattoo