So what happens to those of you who work a lot in PMC? You'd
think those microscopic bits of silver or gold would have to rub
into your palms and fingertips to some extent.
Here’s my unscientific answer:
most metalsmithing tools, techniques and consumables are more
dangerous than most PMC related tools, techniques and consumables.
I just bought a new box of abrasive wheels from 3M that I was
excited about, and they have a scary warning that they cause cancer
and are dangerous to pregnant women and some other class of people.
(Okay, now that I’ve said that, everyone’s going to ask which
product. 3M Radial Bristles. The new ones. The warning is a State
of California required warning.)
Let’s see, in metalsmithing, we might easily encounter in a shop:
-boric acid and borax
-lots of abrasive wheels with goodness knows what in them
-polishes, perhaps some with cadnium
-maybe a little nitric acid
-and if we’re lucky, maybe even some cyanide for “bombing”
Here’s what we use with metal clay:
-plastic and steel tools
-maybe a little Teflon and silicone too
(Yes, yes, if the metal clay artist also solders, there will be some
overlap of the two lists.)
It seems to me that some of the more dangerous things in
metalsmithing are airborne particles that we might breathe.
If the worst thing that happens with metal clay is that some absorbs
through our skin, I’m not too worried about that. We recently had
the discussion about the benefits/dangers of colloidal silver, and
surely the amount of silver I absorb through my skin (if any) is
less than some other people are drinking on purpose.
Further, if you’re being careful, you’re not going to get a lot of
silver on your skin anyway.
When firing metal clay, there are various choices for support
materials that are more or less dangerous. That’s a whole different
conversation. Here’s my short answer: I use vermiculite, avoid
fiber blanket, never use alumina hydrate. Please don’t tell me
about the dangers of vermiculite. I’ve made an informed decision
and feel this is the best option for me.
Metalsmith, Certified PMC Instructor
Hard to Find Tools for Metal Clay