Ever since I was introduced to polymer clay, it’s been labeled as “non-toxic” and that’s been a major selling point for me. You can cure it in your home oven with no ill effects, your kids can use it, it’s appropriate for institutional use, it’s safe.
But is it?
Recently on one of my PC groups, one of the members – Jai – noticed that she was experiencing symptoms that included dizziness, skin irritation, and feelings of confusion or lethargy. You can read about it on her blog. Come to find out, polymer clay is really a form of Poly Vinyl Chloride, or PVC, and contains phthalates, which are present in many house hold items. But they are not considered risk-free.
The major concern with phthalates as been inhaling vapors, like during curing. However, there is some concern that you can also absorb phthalates through the skin. Yikes! Is my love affair with polymer clay over???
Well, there is good news and bad news. The good news is that not everyone is highly sensitive to phthalates, and few folks experience symptoms of toxicity like Jai. (She, by her own admission, has also had previous sensitivities.) And, lo and behold, many clay companies are voluntarily re-formulating their clays to remove phthalates entirely, and find new ways to soften their clays. (Kato clay has been reformulating, and the new version is due out soon.)
Bottom line: be mindful. Pay attention to what your body is telling you when you work with polymer clay. Read the label, and follow best practices to minimize your exposure to fumes.
For another look at the topic, read this down-to earth treatise on the subject Polymer Clay Central.
No fear, my friends, and happy claying!