Recently a customer emailed me asking if there was an ASTM-D4236 certification for one of our glass mosaic tile lines. ASTM-D4236 is the labeling and precautionary standards for chronic health hazards in art materials.
There isn’t an ASTM-D4236 certification for any of our products to my knowledge. They are manufactured as building materials and not as art supplies, and (more importantly) the materials are fairly inert.
The metal oxide pigments used to color glass mosaic tile are fired into the glass itself and not freely available. Otherwise the tile could not be used in pools and baths or even in walls. As with any source of mineral dust, you shouldn’t pulverize the tile and breath it, but in that case the risk would probably be as much from the silicone dioxide (sand/glass) as it would be with the metal oxide pigments.
In terms of safety and chemical health risks, I am much more concerned with my painting studio than my mosaic studio. Artist-grade professional paints contain toxic metal pigments which are freely available and not fired into glass, and any dust from drying paint specks is likely to be much more friable (and therefore air born) than dust created by cutting tile.
Practical Safety Tips
If you are concerned about minimizing potential risks, then follow these safety practices:
- Rinse mosaic materials prior to use to remove any dust generated by shipping.
- Use a HEPA shop vacuum to pick up any dust generated by cutting, which you really need to do anyway because there isn’t much if any true dust, but there are a lot of tiny slivers that will cut your hands and forearms as soon as you rub or rest them on work surfaces.
- Mix grout and thinset outdoors and wear a dust mask. Mixing up these concrete products is much more likely to expose you to silica dust than working with tile.
Lastly, consider that fact that people work for decades in extremely dusty construction sites and mines where their daily exposure is possibly higher than what a lifetime of mosaic work is likely to expose you to. A few simple precautions and adequate cleaning reduce this exposure even further.