In recent years issues of toxicity and the environment have been at the forefront of concerns for artists who wish to be safe, responsible users of pigments and mediums. The need for the best and brightest colours has been balanced with the realization that leads, cadmiums and cobalts are finding their way into the water supplies, regardless of how careful artists are in their usage. The waste output of a major Texas university exemplified the problem, as did legislation in Europe. However, the paint industry has taken notice, and there are many new innovations in the works, responding to public awareness that it is time for a change.

At a recent symposium in New Orleans, 350 people attended workshops on such topics as “Environmentally Friendly Coatings”. The word “coatings” is commonly used in the industry to indicate a wider range of applications for paint. At the symposium, major trends such as sustainability, environment impact, energy management, and new functionality were discussed. Everyone is focused on reducing the carbon footprint, and lead and tin are definitely out of the picture. Chromium, cobalt driers, bisphenol-A, and formaldehyde are rapidly fading from use.

Overall, it is exciting to see so many people working to reduce toxic components in paint, and the concern for environmental issues is an integrated part of the process. The issue is much bigger than personal safety – it involves the safety of our drinking water, food, and our future generations. It is clear that the field of paint, including artist paint, will continue to be rich in innovation!