First things first: Congratulations, mama!
It’s an incredibly exciting time, with no shortage of decisions to be made. The most important questions we ask during this sensitive time are generally related to keeping mom & baby safe throughout all of the trimesters and beyond!
I’m happy to help – and I’ve put together some resources below that might be of use.
The one thing that I can say as a mom and as an artist – the choices you make are yours and the more information you have to make the best possible choice, the better! Some women elect to stop certain practices (like soldering or electroforming) during pregnancy altogether, and that is a choice to be made by the individual. I make choices for my family at the intersection of safety, ease and practicality. Others prioritize differently, and what works for one mama and family might not work for another!
It is absolutely possible to continue smithing while pregnant, but additional precautions may need to be put in place.
- First, additional personal protective equipment and ventilation will be necessary.
- Review your respirator for age of filters and replace if needed. Keep a close eye on how long the filters last – and store them appropriately. Some types of respirator filters continue to filter if left exposed to air, thus shortening their shelf life. You’ll also want to make sure that the mask you choose is rated for fumes.
- Eating and drinking in the metalworking studio is one of the biggest places where chemical compounds are ingested – even when we are not pregnant, this is a practice that should be avoided.
- To avoid unnecessary contact with remnants from sawing or filing, wear an apron or other garment that adequately covers exposed skin and clothing and remove it before leaving the workspace.
- Always wear adequate eye protection, regardless of pregnancy status.
- Be sure that your space is adequately vented: here’s a great way to test – and there is no such thing as TOO much ventilation, so always err on the side of extra.
- Finally, check your materials. Most contemporary solder is cadmium and lead-free, however, double checking doesn’t hurt at all. Rio Grande is a supplier of choice in the states, and their solder does not contain cadmium.
I’ve compiled a list below (with handy links) of MSDS for commonly used chemicals in metalsmithing, so that way it’s easy to get the info that you need to keep making, and to keep you and baby safe.
Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, midwife, nurse – or any sort of medical practitioner. I’m an artist sharing some helpful links that you can use to share information with your healthcare provider. This is not intended to be used as health advice – please consult a licensed and registered provider in your area.
We use a lot of different compounds as metalsmiths for a wide variety of purposes. The best way to be appraised of their relative safety is to consult the MSDS for information about potential effects and what personal protective equipment is necessary for each.
With pregnancy, the risks of exposure to your baby and your body can be substantially different than they would be to a non-pregnant human.
Each chemical has an MSDS (material safety data sheet) that provides information on how to safely protect oneself, store and dispose of the chemicals used in metalsmithing. They also give information about teratogenic or reproductive effects, which are listed in each SDS.
The MSDS (or SDS) also provides information about the potential risks one might be exposed to in using a specific compound. They are provided by the manufacturer of a product, so bear in mind that one brand of liver of sulphur, example, may have an MSDS that differs slightly from another brand’s product due to proprietary formulations or other factors. It’s important to be aware of the specific precautions advised by the manufacturer of a product. The MSDS also provides information about how to administer first aid in case of accidental ingestion or exposure.
The MSDS contains tons of valuable information that can contribute to a safe and healthy smithing environment.
Disposal of used chemical compounds is equally important. When selecting materials, be aware of disposal guidelines. Many areas have a waste disposal organization that provides a service to help ensure these items do not enter the environment and cause harm. Look into your municipality for additional guidance on chemical disposal according to local laws.
I’ve compiled a list below of some common compounds used in a metalsmithing operation with a link to their respective MSDS. With the links below, you can explore the items you use in your art-making practice. I advise pregnant women in metalsmithing to print the ones for the items they use and bring to their doctor for review.
This is in no way meant to be an exhaustive list and should not be considered medical advice. The information provided is for reference and informational purposes. Those with specific health concerns or questions regarding the products listed should contact either the manufacturer or a physician for relevant advice. Remember that these are specific to manufacturer, and check your supplies for specific manufacturer information to find their MSDS/SDS.
Here is a list of some common chemicals used and their respective MSDS.
- Ammonium Persulfate
- Battern’s Flux
- Black Max
- Bobbing Compound
- Boric Acid
- Citric Acid
- Dawn Diswashing Soap
- Delft Clay
- Denatured Alcohol
- Easy Flo Flux
- Ferric Chloride
- Ferric Nitrate
- Goldstar Investment Powder
- Handy Flux
- Hydrogen Peroxide
- JAX Silver Blackener
- Liver of Sulfur
- Orange Oil
- Penny Brite
- Plumb Gold Solder
- Pripp’s Flux
- Renaissance Wax
- Rio Grande Steel Shot Cleaner
- Shine-Brite Burnishing Compound
- Silver and Gold Solder Alloys
- Spa Down
- Sodium Carbonate
- Tripoli – Brown
- White Diamond
- White Out
Congratulations, again! I hope that you found this information useful – but please, please take extra precautions and consult a licensed and registered health professional.