To Craft or Not To Craft

Summertime is winding down but there are still a few days, and possibly even weeks, left to enjoy some outdoor activities! Two favorite activities are blowing bubbles and drawing with sidewalk chalk. Two other favorite activities, at least according to IPC statistics, are drinking bubbles and nibbling on the chalk!

What do you do if you catch your child sipping from the bottle of blowing bubbles?  Don’t get too upset!  Give us a call at 1-800-222-1222 and we’ll discuss what you need to do. Generally the bubbles are a low concentration of soap and the worst that will happen is one episode of vomiting. Wash the child up and give them a drink and they should be fine. Similarly, if the child is chewing on the sidewalk chalk, it shouldn’t be a big problem. 

While, the sidewalk chalk is non-toxic and a bite or two is not a concern, that isn’t the case with all art/craft supplies.  If you offer arts and crafts, it is important to provide safe products for children in your care to use. The Indiana Poison Center suggests checking the labels on art materials, and only using those identified as safe to be used for children under the age of 12 years. It’s not always easy to determine which arts and crafts materials are safe for adults and children. Some materials contain toxic or harmful chemicals, yet their labels will have inadequate information about ingredients or precautions such as whether they are safe for children.

Some things to remember:

  • Always read the packaging label on arts and crafts products.  Follow carefully the directions and precautions listed on the label.
  • If the arts and crafts product label does not have enough information for you to decide whether it’s safe, contact the Indiana Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222.

How to understand product labels:

  • Nontoxic - When a manufacturer advertises a product as “nontoxic” it means the product has passed the acute or short-term toxicity test required by the Federal Hazardous Substance Act. Nothing, however, is implied about the product’s long-term toxicity. Therefore, materials that may cause long-term toxicity and may cause minor illness if swallowed could carry a “nontoxic” label.
  • Meets American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM) regulations for chronic long-term health - To address the issue of long term toxicity, the “Labeling of Hazardous Art Materials Act” in 1990 required that any art and craft materials that present a chronic hazard bear a WARNING statement of the hazard and an additional warning that it is inappropriate for use by children.  The Law directed the Consumer Product Safety Commission to set guidelines determining whether arts and crafts present chronic long-term hazards to both adults and children.  All arts and crafts materials must identify the hazardous ingredients, provide guidelines for safe use, identify that the product complies with Federal Law, and provide a telephone number for the consumer to request additional information must appear on the label, the packaging, or the display for the product.  Although this law has been in effect for more than 10 years, there are still products on the market, especially imported art products, which are not in compliance.
    The law requires labeling of such products as solvents, spray paints, silk screen inks, adhesives and materials that contain chemicals that are hazardous if inhaled, absorbed or swallowed.
  • Certified Products (CP) or approved (AP) - The Certified Product (CP) or Approved Product (AP) seal identifies some art materials as safe for children’s use.  To carry either of these seals, an authority on toxicology from the Art and Craft Materials Institute has evaluated the product.  This certification means there are no materials in the art product in sufficient quantity to be toxic or to injure the body even if ingested.

Certified or Approved Products include crayons, water colors, tempera colors, finger paints, chalks, modeling materials, pencils, block printing inks, gel pens, drawing inks, etching inks, screen printing inks, school paste, adhesives, acrylic and oil paint, marking crayons and other art materials.  Products bearing the AP seal are nontoxic even if ingested.  Those bearing the CP seal are nontoxic even if ingested and meet or exceed specific quality standards of material, workmanship, working qualities and color.  Products without these seals, but which state they are “nontoxic” indicate only that the product is not acutely toxic and may still make a person sick if swallowed. Carefully read labels to identify products, which are certified and approved by the Arts and Crafts Materials Institute.  Refrain from eating or drinking while using these products and wash your hands thoroughly when finished.

When choosing art supplies, some products to avoid include:

  • Powdered tempera paints, pastels, chalks or dry markers that create dust.
  • Instant paper-mache (may contain asbestos fibers and lead from pigments in colored printing inks)
  • Oil based paints, turpentine, benzene, toluene, and rubber cement and it’s thinner

These products can be substituted for:

  • Natural dyes, such as dyes made from vegetables, onion skins, tea, flowers, and other food dyes.
  • Paper-Mache made from black and white newspaper and library paste, white paste or flour and water paste.
  • Water-based paints, glues, inks, etc.

Indiana Poison Center experts are standing by 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to help with poison emergencies. To learn more about poison prevention and to receive a free home safety check list, a magnet and phone stickers, call the Indiana Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222, or visit the Center’s website at

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