Polymer clay has been known to have some dangers associated with it because it contains toxic chemicals. Once you have used polymer clay on a surface, you can never put food on that surface again, as the chemicals will remain stuck in the surface.
Here are some tips for polymer clay craft safety:
Look at your packet of polymer clay for a seal with “AP”. AP stands for “approved product” and indicates that the clay has undergone toxicology evaluations by medical experts. These medical experts work for the Arts and Crafts Materials Institute (ACMI) in Boston and a toxicology review board evaluates their findings about polymer clay. If the toxicology board passes the clay, then it can have the official label to inform the consumer that it does not contain materials that are injurious to humans and will not cause chronic health problems if accidentally ingested.
The polymer clay label should also be marked with a “non-hazardous” label to ensure the customer that the clay is safe.
Polymer clay does project baking fumes. You should notice a slight smell when baking the clay, however only harmful flames will come if you burn the clay. Hydrochloride gas is released if the clay is burned and it can irritate the mucous membranes in your body. Most people will notice stinging of the eyes, nose, and throat as a result of burned clay. Remove any crumbs or small clay pieces from your oven if they have fallen off during the firing.
A common misconception about polymer clay is that you can use it to eat off of. This is indeed not true. One particular brand of polymer clay, Sculpey, has a caution on the box that reads, “Pottery or dishes made from Sculpey should be used to decorative purposes only, not with food, beverages, or smoking materials.”
Even though polymer clay has the non-toxic label, it is still not safe for food. The reason for this is because after the polymer clay is cured, it is still porous, making it very difficult to sanitize. Bacteria and mold spores found in food products cab settle and proliferate in the pores. Not only will this spread disease, but it will damage your clay work.
There are plasticizers used in polymer clay. The phthalate does undergo hazardous materials testing, but you should only use the polymer clay as directed.
Things you can do to be safe:
To start working with polymer clay, designate an area in your house. Keep in mind that you will need an area large enough to roll out your clay. Because the clay cannot be used around food, keep it away from food areas. If you want to use the kitchen table, be sure to cover it with plastic or a tablecloth that is only used for the polymer clay.
Keep the materials you use separate from other food or kitchen materials. Most people will use cutting tools, a rolling pin, and a cutting board. Invest in new ones from the dollar store. Be sure to clean the materials after use and store them away from food.
The polymer clay should be placed in plastic bags or containers that do not contain food items. Store them in a cool, dry place, away from food and kitchen items. If you use a pasta machine, store it with the other items and never use it for food.
Be sure to read the instructions for firing the clay, as there are different temperatures and times for different polymer clay crafts. Clean your oven monthly to prevent polymer clay crumbs from being burnt and emitting fumes in the home.
Always wash your hands after handling polymer clay especially before touching food!