Good evening to all! I was talking to a potter friend of mine a few days ago about manganese. I have a manganese wash I was considering using on a few pieces. She warned me to be very cognizant of the safety precautions I needed to take while handling it...At first I thought she might be over reacting slightly...but then I got my edition of the Clay Times magazine..and guess what it had in it?!? A 2 page article on the danger and new OSHA standards regarding manganese!
The acceptable/allowable limits of manganese particles has been drastically reduced by OSHA. The health issues related to manganese has come to light in large part due to welders developing health issues believed to be linked to the manganese particulates that are spread through the air as part of the welding process. Various ceramic artists/potters have also expressed their concerns throughout the years. These health concerns include manganese parkinonism (could be caused from airborne manganese, and is the biggest health concern related to manganese at this time), neurological deficits, poor hand-eye coordination, slower reflexes, and short-term memory deficits among other things.
So, why do we care? Even if you use extreme care and caution while handling manganese, you can still be affected. Firing your kiln with items containing manganese in/on them, can create respirable fumes with particles large enough to be of concern. There are many commercial glazes that are used that contain manganese and the average studio-potter may not realize it. There are also clay bodies that contain manganese specs in it...speckled stoneware anyone? The dust and dry scrap created from trimming/sanding pots made with this manganese speckled clay can also be hazardous. Though the manganese particulates are larger, but the dust will get into your clothes...etc.
The next question is..what do we do about this??? The best/biggest thing we can do, is to be aware what we have in our studios. What clays and glaze contain manganese. If you choose to continue to use manganese products, ensure you wear appropriate safety equipment; rubber gloves, dust mask, and goggles. If your kiln is indoors, make sure that it is properly vented and that you are not in the immediate vicinity during firing. You can get more detailed information in the actual article published in the Clay Times, Spring 2014 issue (Volume 20, Issue 97).
I think I am just going to leave it be...not use the manganese wash. At this time...I just can't justify the usage versus the health concern...my health sucks as it is! haha
PLEASE, spread the word about the health risks. Some people may feel comfortable continuing to use it. I have yet to use it..and don't think I will. It's all about educating yourself and being responsible in your endeavors. What are your thoughts on this topic?? Would love to hear from someone who uses it on a regular basis...what are your thoughts/views about the new standards??