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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Health and Safety in Arts Education: Definitions

Health, safety, and source reduction information for artists and art educators, including theater arts.


While not comprehensive, the list provides quick access to definitions of frequently used words and phrases. Links to more comprehensive glossaries are provided in the Essential Links section of this page. Commonly used synonyms are listed in parenthesis.

Word or phrase Definition
ACMI Certification Products Products bearing these labels had a toxicological evaluation by a medical expert and have been reviewed by The Arts and Creative Materials Institute (ACMI) Toxicological Advisory Board. They are certified by ACMI to be labeled in accordance with the chronic hazard labeling standard, ASTM D 4236 and Federal law, P.L. 100-695.
ACMI (Art & Craft Materials Institute) Seals ACMI is a non-profit association of manufacturers of art, craft, and creative materials. The association ensures that products are safe through toxicology assessments and provides rating seals for art materials.
Acute Short-term exposure of fairly high concentrations, which leads to some adverse health conditions
Adequate ventilation Provided through a constant exchange of fresh air, typically achieved through a mechanical process of replacing contaminated air every 15 to 20 minutes with fresh air.
Art material Any substance marketed or represented by the producer or re-packager as suitable for use in any phase of creation of any work of visual or graphic art of any medium.
Asbestos A fibrous, non-combustible mineral formed from silicate minerals that have been mined for their useful properties such as thermal insulation, chemical and thermal stability, and high-tensile strength Inhalation of the fibers can cause asbestosis or lung cancer.
AP (Approved Products) Seal Products bearing this seal are certified by ACMI to contain no materials in sufficient quantities to be toxic or injurious to humans or to cause chronic or acute health problems. These products are safe to use in the classroom, even with young children.
Benzene A colorless, flammable hydrocarbon derived from petroleum. It is an inhalation hazard. The vapor is harmful and may create serious respiratory problems. Harmful or fatal if swallowed and is a known carcinogen.
Caustic Able to burn or corrode organic tissue by chemical action.
Certified non-toxic Materials carrying ACMI Seals CP, AP, or HL have been evaluated by qualified toxicologists for hazards and determined to be safe for young children to handle.
Chemical property Describes how a substance interacts with another involving a chemical change that changes the identity of the original substance.
Chemical stability The resistance of a chemical to change in a chemical reaction. Some chemicals, like gold, are very stable and resistant to change. In contrast, sodium is unstable and corrodes rapidly in the presence of air.
Chronic Long-term exposure of fairly low concentrations, which can lead to some adverse health effects.
CL (Cautionary Label) Seal Products bearing the CL Cautionary Label Seal have health warnings associated with them and are not recommended for use around young children. These products should be used with caution and adult supervision is recommended.
Conforms to ASTM D-4236 Products that carry this statement conform to the labeling standards of the Hazardous Art Materials Act. If the product is non-toxic, then no warning needs to be included on the label. However, if the product is found to carry acute or chronic health hazards,the information on the label must alert the consumer to those hazards.
Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) A U.S. government agency that protects the American public from products that may present safety hazards.
Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA)

Passed in 2008, this law was created to establish consumer product safety standards and other safety requirements for children’s products. Its major provisions include:

  • lowering lead levels in children’s products,
  • permanent and interim bans on six phthalates in toys and childcare articles,
  • required third party testing of children’s products, and
  • the required issuance of conformity and third party testing certificates with each product shipment.

The law wraps in compliance to ASTM F-963, a toy safety standard which exempts art materials products unless they are themselves or produce a product primarily of play value.

CP Seal (Certified Product) Products bearing the CP Certified Seal are certified in a program of toxicological evaluation by a medical expert to contain no materials in sufficient quantities to be toxic or injurious to humans or to cause acute or chronic health problems.
Dermal exposure The body is exposed to a hazard through skin.
Flammability The ability of a chemical to burn or ignite, causing fire or combustion. The degree of difficulty required to cause the combustion of a chemical is quantified through fire testing.
Hazardous material A chemical for which there is statistically significant evidence based on at least one study conducted in accordance with established scientific principles that acute or chronic health effects may occur in exposed employees (or people). OSHA defines it as a chemical that has a physical hazard or a health hazard.
HL/CR (Health Label/Cautions Required) Seal Products bearing the Health Label (Cautions Required) Seal (HL/CR) of the Art & Creative Materials Institute, Inc. (ACMI) are certified in a program of toxicological evaluation by a medical expert to be properly labeled. This program is reviewed by ACMI's Toxicological Advisory Board. These products are certified by ACMI to be labeled in accordance with the chronic hazard labeling standard, ASTM D-4236 and Federal Law, P.L. 100-696. Products bearing the CL or HL/CR Seals bear appropriate ingredient and cautionary labeling and safe use instructions.
Human carcinogen Any substance, radionuclide, or radiation that promotes carcinogenesis, the formation of cancer in humans.
Inhalation The action of inhaling or breathing in. Hazardous materials can enter the body through the airways and lungs by way of inhalation. Smoke, fumes, spray mists, dust, particulate matter, and vapors typically enter the body through breathing them in.
Labeling of Hazardous Art Materials Act (LHAMA)

This federal law, which went into effect in 1990, amends the Federal Hazardous Substances Act (FHSA) to:

  • require art and craft materials manufacturers to evaluate their products for their ability to cause chronic illness and to place labels on those that do.
  • enact ASTM D-4236, a standard for evaluating chronic hazards already in use by 85-90% of the art and craft materials manufacturers before the law went into effect, and provides for enacting any future revisions to the standard.
  • require the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to develop guidelines for evaluation criteria for toxicologists to use under ASTM D-4236 and to develop and distribute educational information about art materials.  
  • require a statement on the label of a product with a chronic hazard potential that the product is inappropriate for use by children and permits CPSC to enjoin the purchase of such an art material for use in grades pre-K through 6.

The law applies to every manufacturer, distributor, retailer and some purchasers (schools and teachers) of art materials in the U.S.

Least-toxic Substances that present minimal toxicity risks when compared to alternative options, although some risk remains and temporary and/or minor injury could occur if label warnings are not observed.
LHAMA The federal , passed in 1988, requires that all art materials be reviewed to determine the potential for causing a chronic hazard and that appropriate warning labels be put on those art materials.
Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) A document that contains information on the potential health effects of exposure to chemicals, or other potentially dangerous substances, and on safe working procedures when handling chemical products. Now called Safety Data Sheets (SDS).
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) The federal agency responsible for conducting research and making recommendations for the prevention of work-related injury and illness. 
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) The federal agency charged with assuring the safety and health of America's workers by setting and enforcing standards.
Organic solvent A chemical compound, generally liquid, that contains carbon and is used to dissolve another substance.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) standards Guidelines established for people working in hazardous environments. Requires the wearing of specific gear, depending upon the hazard. This can include goggles, respirators, and gloves. The standard established varies according to the degree of hazard and type of risk.
Physical property Characterizes the physical condition of an object, such as its temperature, flexibility, weight, or color.
Pollution prevention (P2) Any practice that reduces, eliminates, or prevents pollution at its source. Also known as source reduction.
Safety Data Sheet (SDS) A document that contains information on the potential health effects of exposure to chemicals, or other potentially dangerous substances, and on safe working procedures when handling chemical products. Formerly called Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS).
Silica A crystalline compound present in quartz and sand and in processed materials such as concrete and glass. It is generally white or colorless.
Solvent A substance, usually liquid, used to dissolve another substance. For example, water is a solvent often used to dissolve salt or sugar.
Source reduction Any process that reduces the amount of waste from the beginning of a process with the goal of limiting the amount of waste at the conclusion of a project and eliminating the amount of waste going to a landfill. Also known as pollution prevention (P2).
Stability A substance that is resistant to change and has a constant, dependable character and/or property. 
Toxic material A substance that may cause harm to an individual if it enters the body.
Zero waste management Achieving the condition of generating no waste, incorporating any potential waste in other uses, or preventing waste in all steps of a process produces zero waste management.


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