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Toxic Ingredients used in Glazes
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Many substances are a problem when working with pottery, ceramics or glazes during production, through touch or inhalation, others in the finished product.
A designates a substance which may be hazardous to health, either through inhalation or assimilation through the skin.
Some substances should not be used for tableware, usually due to leaching.
While the substances listed may be hazardous, this does not mean they cannot be used at all - rather that caution should be used!
Note that some ingredients listed may not be designated as toxic, but may be hazardous nonetheless.
A comprehensive list of MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets) are available here: http://avogadro.chem.iastate.edu/MSDS/ .

Safety Measures:

  • know the materials you are dealing with

  • wear a good dust mask when handling dry materials

  • wear gloves when touching any raw materials, dry or wet

  • avoid using particularly toxic raw materials, such as white lead. Use frits instead.

  • wash hands carefully after contact with materials

  • wear protective clothing and wash frequently

  • Wear a gas mask when reducing or salt or soda firing

  • Wash workbenches and wet mop studio floors

  • If spraying glazes, wear a mask and use a spray booth

  • Never eat or drink near studio or working area

Clay And Glaze Toxic Materials List


Dust is a nuisance to lungs


Causes particularly nasty, incurable fibrosis if inhaled.

Barium Carbonate

is a dangerous form of barium, as it forms a soluble chloride in the stomach and accumulates.
It affects muscles, in particular the heart, increasing its excitability, leading to high blood pressure and internal bleeding.
Will penetrate the skin.
Not recommended for food ware, as it may leach.


chronic exposure can cause asthma, diarrhea and skin conditions


Used as a pigment in glazes.
Can cause respiratory diseases, osteoporosis, cancer and other problems.

Carbon Dioxide

If the oxygen level falls, hearing will decrease, pulse and blood pressure rise.
Carbon dioxide forms during combustion firing processes.

Carbon Monoxide

combines in the body with the hemoglobin in the blood and reduces the availability of oxygen to the body.
Symptoms such as headache, dizziness and fatigue appear in healthy people when 10% of their hemoglobin combines with carbon monoxide. Can lead very quickly to drowsiness, then death.
Forms during heavy reduction firings.

Chromates and Chromic Acid

may be cancerous.
Will also enter the body through the skin.

Cobalt Oxide, Carbonate

can cause liver damage and dermatitis.
Will enter the body through the skin.


salts are irritants to the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes.
Inhalation of copper dust and fume results in irritation of the respiratory tract.


in all forms in the studio should be avoided.
They accumulate over the years and cause emphysema -- not a nice disease to have.
Take special care with silica.

Ferrous Sulphite

can be fatal and should be avoided.

Fiber Blanket

especially in the fired state can shed invisible floating fibers that have similar effects to asbestos.


from salt kilns and reducing kilns, can cause respiration trouble or even acid corrosion of lung tissue.

Gum Arabic

may cause asthma and eye inflammations.

Iron Chromate

may lead to acute pneumonia and cause lung cancer.

Iron Oxide Dust

is poisonous for children and can cause "iron pigmentation" of the lungs, supposedly benign but contentious.


similar to silica.


is an accumulative poison.
It can be stored in the bone structure for years before a fatal dose is accumulated.
Beware of raw lead forms, such as white or yellow lead, which are extremely toxic.
Use lead frits instead.
Do not use for tableware.

Liquid Petroleum Gas

can cause headaches, numbness, chills and vomiting, but is a greater risk as explosive than inhalation.

Magnesium Oxide

is considered noxious, but general rules for dusts still apply.


can lead to brain damage and eventually death.
Will penetrate skin.

Mica, Muscovite, Vermiculite, Lipidolite

may contain traces of asbestos.
Inhalation of dust will lead to lung irritation and coughing, possibly cancer, pneumoconiosis, dyspnea.

Nickel Oxide

can cause cancer.
Will cause skin irritation ('nickel itch').
Will penetrate skin.


may cause asthma.

Potassium Dichromate/ Bichromate

is very poisonous.
Can cause kidney failure and is cancerous.
Avoid all contact!
Not recommended for tableware!


affects the liver.


is ever present in clay materials.
Repeated inhalation will cause potentially fatal silicosis, or 'potters' asthma', a form of emphysema.
The molecule (especially when fired) has a 'hook' which attaches itself to the lung wall and accumulates and irritates.

Sulpher Dioxide

is a strong lung irritant and can form when firing soluble metal salts.


similar to silica

Tin Oxide

can result in ' stenosis;

supposedly a benign condition.

Titanium Dioxide

causes pulmonary irritation in chronically exposed workers.

Uranium Compounds

cause kidney damage, not to mention the radioactivity.

Vanadium Pentoxide

can cause anemia; it is a respiratory irritant.

Zinc Oxide

primarily a nuisance dust, but exposures to high concentrations can result in respiratory system effects.


contact of the skin with zirconium or zirconium compounds has caused skin granulomas in the form of linear streaks of small papules; also causes pulmonary granulomas after prolonged exposure.


:this database is by no means a complete listing of toxic materials. It is a guide only. It remains the duty of each individual handling these and other substances to insure that the proper safety standards are met, and that he/she is fully informed on the levels of toxicity of the various substances he/she is using. For more information, refer to the relevant literature available on each ingrediant.

Feeling more ignorant every day means you're learning.

Tips - Definitions - Clay Projects - Pottery Gallery - Pottery Tools - Glazes - All About Clay

Have you ever come up with a good idea while working with your handmade pottery and thought that you would like to share it with others? You have? Well, why not send it to us and we will add it to the tips page for all to see.

Handmade pottery can be a very gratifying hobby that produces fun and satisfying results. For many people it's an enjoyable release that is created by working an inanimate mound of clay into a beautiful work of art that you made through your artistic abilities.

The best way of starting out is to take a few lessons from Youtube. You will probably waste quite a bit in materials when you first get started. Figuring out how to truly make handmade pottery correctly and shape into what you want it to be can be quite an ordeal. The different tools that a normal shop will have can be fun to try. You will soon see which ones you like to use the most and then when you are ready you will know which ones to buy.

With the help of the internet, you can now purchase most if not all of your ceramic and pottery tools and supplies online. We are located far from any well supplied dealers and yet working with reliable ceramic and pottery suppliers online has allowed us to recieve most of our orders within a timely manner.

When you get all set up, just enjoy the hobby and have fun at it. Some people get pretty serious and start selling their creations at craft fairs and small stores, but others just like to create items for themselves, relatives, and friends. Whichever kind of handmade pottery you desire to endeavor, enjoy the hobby and have fun doing it.

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