Over the past decade or more, I have often stopped myself during certain stages of creation—be it in traditional printmaking, painting, developing photos, or making jewelry—and wondered if I was really being safe enough with all of these materials and chemicals. Of course, I always follow the safety guidelines, but I do not believe that following those guarantees you won't absorb some part of what you're working with.
Even in a lab or studio with a ventilation system, there were many times that I finished the day with a pounding headache, dizziness, or a sore throat. Copper etching and film developing were the most noticeable, but many other things fell in line behind those in subtle shades of gray.
It is difficult for an artist to think about squelching their creativity for safety reasons because, sooner or later, what options remain? Even so, I think it is important for artists of almost any medium to think about what they're working with and ask themselves whether they could be safer with what they're using, or whether they would want to alter their materials choices.
With my strong focus on artisanal jewelry techniques, I have had to consciously choose not just what I want to learn, but what I am willing to expose myself to. I can think of at least a couple of things that I'd love to try, but am unwilling to do more than just once in a blue moon due to the chemicals exposure.
All of this was prompted by the article Toxic Art, which is a must-read for artists in most mediums.