Some of your child's art supplies may contain hazardous materials. Here's how to see if they're safe.
Credit: Annie Schlechter

Q: I've heard that some kids' arts and crafts supplies can be toxic. How can I determine whether the materials my child uses are safe?

A: Federal law requires that child-friendly supplies like crayons, paints, and clay be checked for safety, says Deborah M. Fanning, executive vice president of the Art & Creative Materials Institute (ACMI), a nonprofit association in Hanson, MA. Look for a mandatory "Conforms to ASTMD 4236" label, which means that a toxicologist has evaluated it for long-term health hazards based on standards developed by the American Society for Testing and Materials.

Most children's materials also carry ACMI's Approved Product Seal, which means they pose no immediate or long-term health hazards and are nontoxic. If you have concerns about the supplies your child uses at home or at school -- perhaps the packaging has been discarded -- visit ACMI's Web site at and go to its certification page. Here you can search a database of the thousands of products the group has evaluated.

Fifteen percent of art materials made for adults pose health hazards -- and they are labeled that way, along with information on the safe and proper use of these supplies.

Keep in mind when doing craft activities that some surprising materials can be toxic. For example, beware of using raw red kidney beans for projects that call for beans because they can be poisonous if eaten by a child. (They are not toxic when cooked).

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Copyright © 2002. Reprinted with permission from the April 2002 issue of Child magazine.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.