I've learned that research-informed purchasing decisions, and good studio practices are very important, not just for me, but for everyone. Over the years I’ve used most art studio materials, either at home or in studio classes. When I discovered my chemical allergies, I took a big step back from arts and crafts until I got them under control. When I returned to my supplies it became very obvious which ones were causing a reaction. This is the reason why I focused on dry media for a time, then moved to water-based media (with cautions). 
How I research art materials
No matter if I am buying art supplies in-person or online, I read the labeling. There are three key things you should always check on a label. First, the ASTM compliance statement, which means that under United States labeling laws, all hazardous components are included on the label. Second, the Art and Creative Materials Institute (ACMI) certification seal, which means a toxicology study has been done on the ingredients. Third, the ingredients and warnings listed.
In addition to reading the labels, I will sometimes also go looking for the Materials Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). Here is the MSDS for Daniel Smith’s watercolor paint tubes. It’s full of technical data about the ingredients, and at the outset it looks a little scary because it includes information for the people doing the manufacturing of the product, not just the end-use information. Most art supply websites have links to this information for each product. For example, the Dick Blick product icon key is explained here.
Other Considerations
I make a habit of keeping a clean studio. When everything is neatly stored there are fewer chances for accidental spills or exposures. I don’t use my fingers directly with any media; I will use gloves if I need to touch something. I also have an air purifier that filters out any stray allergens.
I am all about research, so here are two resources that I think you may find helpful: The University of Chicago Art Studio Safety Policy contains a very inclusive list of the best safety practices all artists should use, and Anthony Roebuck at Watercolor Affair has a good article about the toxicity of watercolor paint.
What’s in My Allergy Friendly Studio?
•  An insane number of pencils of all sorts.  •  Watercolor paint.  •  Fineliner pens and dip pens with drawing inks.  •  Watercolor sticks and crayons (used when wearing gloves).  •  Watercolor markers from Winsor and Newton and Faber Castell.  •  Pan Pastels.  •  Liquitex Acrylic Ink and Gouache (this is the only one that doesn’t give me a headache when I use it).  •  Alcohol-based markers (used when I am near the air purifier and only for a short time).  •  Paper substrates (I avoid gessoed canvases and wood panels).  •  Water-based adhesives, like Nori Paste and Elmer’s brand glues.
There are so many ways you can still express your creativity even though you can’t use certain craft store items or art supplies. Some other activities I pursue that are allergy friendly include needlework, weaving, paper crafts, and book making. Some days I feel like I am missing out, but in the end it has become a way for me to focus my energy and do some creative problem solving.
* Disclaimer: This article is my opinion based on my personal experience. I am not a doctor, nor do I make any health claims about any art materials or supplies. I do not obtain any kick-backs from any product brand listed. Do your own research and speak with your own physician before starting a new activity.
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