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Junior wrote up a thing about Materials safety for cosplay [link]
. It's getting a bit of buzz on Tumblr so I thought I'd share it with the DeviantArt world:
I've noticed a shift in the way most people cosplay now. There's a larger selection of materials at our disposal and it what was impressive and unheard of to cast your own plastics or fiberglass your own armor a few years ago, it's become common place in the modern cosplay scene. Popular cosplayers and prop builders like Volpin and fev have brought new materials into the limelight and made us as cosplayers reevaluate the way we make our props and costumes.
Maybe I got to thinking about this as I was designated a Respiratory Safety Trainer at work – I work on the Craft Team at Walt Disney World, I work typically with dyes but also have frequent exposure to glues, plastics, and solvents – because my brain can hardly take anything without, in some way, swinging it back around to how it applies to cosplay. And while much of this, without being technical in anyway, is pretty basic stuff I think it's important to at least have some information when bringing new materials into your cosplay repertoire.
I know I'm guilty of simply reading the "how-to" portion of the instructions on any resin kit or plastic, I wave off the "safety" portion simply because I've done it before. Yeah yeah I get it, probably shouldn't do this in the house. But by not fully understanding the product there is some inherent risk. We all have accidents while working on a costume, I've burned myself more times than I care to count, had paint or glue, somehow, end up in my mouth. Usually it's just carelessness – but what do you do if you inhale the product, what happens if you become light headed, what if someone in your household (or you, yourself) ingests the product by mistake? This information isn't always in the instructions – often times calling poison control is the only information provided.
The easiest way to ensure safety, and a deeper understanding of the product you're using is to look up the product's MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet – sometimes known as SDS [Safety Data Sheet] or PSDS [Product Safety Data Sheet]) In the USA MSDS are required by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) for any chemical used in a given workplace that an employee may be exposed to, this is Right-To-Know information and is available to anyone, regardless of your exposure being employment based. Most companies have MSDS available on their websites – and if not, a simple phone call will provide you with a free copy of an MSDS for any product you may be looking at. They're easy to read and full of important information.
Lets look at Krylon spray paints, who provides MSDS for every product they sell – including every color variation of the same product. This particular sheet is for a Burgundy paint: KRYLON ColorMaster with CoverMax Technology, Satin Burgundy: [link]
As you can see, this information is easy to read and broken down into important subtopics: Product and Company Identification, Composition, Hazard Identification, First Aid Measures, Fire Fighting Measures, Accidental Release Measures, Handling and Storage, Exposure Controls, Physical and Chemical Properties, Stability and Reactivity, Toxicological Information, Ecological Information, Disposal Considerations, Transport Information, Regulatory Information, and Other. While this is a lot of information to take in, and it is all important and relevant, some more than others in the realm of cosplay. The key sections to identify and understand for cosplay and casual use are: Section's 1,2,3,4,5,6, 7 and 8.
Section 1: Product and Company Identification
This is the simplest section, but contains some important phone numbers for further information on the product, and medical assistance.
Section 2: Composition
Much of this information refers to the Chemical Abstracts Service Registry Numbers (CAS Number), which can be looked up for further information about that particular chemical or ingredient, but also lists these chemicals and percentage of the product said chemicals take up. Some these ingredients may be unfamiliar to you, but often times there will be components that you have heard of, and understand to be toxic. I do encourage the CAS Number to be researched – but I also understand this is a lot of work just to spray paint something.
Section 3: Hazard Identification
This section outlines the ways the body can be exposed to the product and what potential health risks and symptoms can be expected if over exposed to the product. It also informs of medical conditions that can be aggravated by use of the product and the carcinogen information.
Section 4: First Aid Measures
This is pretty self explanatory but very very good information to have. Sometimes, throwing up isn't the answer!
Section 5: Fire Fighting Measures
While common sense is at play here to prevent ignition in the first place, accidents happen and not all fires should be treated the same.
Section 6: Accidental Release Measures
If you're anything like me, spilling and breaking things goes hand in hand with cosplay. This section is pretty straight forward, simply how to contain a spill.
Section 7: Handling and Storage
Most of us work out of our homes and garages and do not work in any strange or extreme conditions, but, especially with a product that is new to you, it's important to understand what to do with it once you're finished. Maybe it needs to stay cold, or in a moist environment, this section lays all of that out.
Section 8: Exposure Controls/Personal Protection
This section is key. It explains the best conditions to use the product and what items should be worn on your person to ensure optimal safety conditions. Each chemical is different and requires different protective measures, so be sure to understand the differences.
PPE, or Personal Protective Equipment is important to understand when taking in this section. Some of the best cosplay supplies to have at hand are Nitrile Gloves, Dust Masks, and Organic Vapor Masks. These are disposable, but can be used more than once – up to 8 hours of use, or 30 Calendar Days of storage, whichever comes first. Not all dust masks are created equal and will not always protect you from whatever you'd like to limit your exposure to (for example, if the fumes from a can of spray paint make you light headed, wearing a dust mask will not give you any relief, as they only protect from airborne particulates – your mask must be Organic Vapor certified, which uses charcoal, usually, to filter the air before it goes into your lungs). If you chose to purchase any of these masks for use, make sure they have a NIOSH certification – though you'll be hard pressed to find some that don't. Personal respirators are also an option but are far pricier and require fittings and medical evaluation to use and maintain.
I understand that this is a lot of information and may seem, to some degree, like overkill. But think about how much spray paint you've used over your cosplaying career, think about how many things you've had to dye or how many times you've had to use superglue. Simply because you don't use something for long periods of time in one instance, think in the long term of your exposure to a product. While you may not choose to use this information, it's important to know that it is available to you should you need or want it.
I'm thinking of you and your long healthy, safe life as a cosplayer!
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