As an alcohol ink artist, I made an alarming discovery that I think all of you need to know. 

I recently purchased an Air Quality Monitor. This is the one I chose, and it measures in mg, so for comparison sake, you turn it to mcg. There are many other good ones. I’m going to purchase a second one that is totally different, and compare. I suspect I’ll get similar results.

Why did I purchase the monitor?

Because my art studio is in our basement and I wanted to see how clean (or not) the air was in the basement. I do use a Germ Guardian air purifier that sits not 2 1/2 feet from me, blowing right on me. I also use two Air Oasis air purifiers which work differently than the Germ Guardian—they have small amounts of ozone, and air does not blow through them. But I only turn them on when we are gone..

I took the Air Quality monitor down to the basement and where I sit to do my art. The result was MILD POLLUTE. I was at least glad it was only mild. I sadly did not write the two measurements down that explain why it says Mild Pollute. But since I will be sharing subsequent ones with you below, I want you to know now what they are measuring on this monitor:

HCHO

This is a measurement of the formaldehyde level in the area you are in, and is considered a Volatile Organic Acid, aka VOC. . Formaldehyde is common in many homes, coming from things like your water heater (mine is in the basement where my studio is), furnace or fireplace, cleaning products with terpenes, plywood, pressed wood, particle board, medium density fiberboard, many cosmetic or body products,some clothing, some curtains, perhaps a new couch or rug, cigarettes or ecigs…on and on. You can read more here.  But the BOTTOM LINE is that formaldehyde poses a “significant danger” to all of us with its common release in our private homes.

TVOC

This is a measurement of the combination of many chemicals in your house that emit gas, aka Volatile Organic Compounds or VOC.  Information states that most buildings with have a TVOC level ranging from 100 to 500 ug/m3 (ug is the same as mcg). The monitor information says that we shouldn’t have more than 600 mcg (ug) in our homes.  “Volatile Organic Compounds can cause irritation of eyes, nose, and throat, headaches, nausea, as well as damage to livers, kidneys, and central nervous systems. Some are suspected carcinogens. VOCs look to be the second most important pollutant from studies. Common examples of VOCs that may be present in our daily lives are: benzene, ethylene glycol, formaldehyde, methylene chloride, tetrachloroethylene, toluene, xylene, and 1,3-butadiene”

        Ideally, you want the HCHO to be less than or equal to .10 and the TOVC less than or equal to .6.

I then did an experiment that HIGHLY concerned me and should YOU.

When I got Mild Pollute in my basement studio, I set the monitor to my left with a smile, and started to use Ranger Adirondack Blending Solution on my Yupo. Within 2 seconds, my monitor emitted an alarm. I looked over…and the HCHO (formaldehyde) shot up to 1.999 (the highest it can go) and the TVOC (gas emitting toxic chemicals) shot up to 9.999 (the highest it can go)…and it said in red SERIOUS POLLUTE. I was shocked. 

I then looked at the ingredients of the blending solution–the first is ETHANOL–it’s a serious toxicant we are breathing every time we use the blending solution–serious enough to send the monitor in high alert. See http://jpet.aspetjournals.org/content/309/3/1167 and https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2790780/

The third ingredient is the alcohol! The same alcohol we use to spray our Yupo or tiles, the same alcohol we use to clean our brushes, the same alcohol in the inks, the same alcohol in the pens. So….I decided to JUST test the 70% alcohol that I have on hand (less alcohol than the 90% I have on hand). I sprayed the Yupo…and BAM…the measurements did the exact same thing–as high as they could get, and SERIOUS POLLUTE.  See https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1521838 And there are many more research articles about the toxicity of the alcohol we use.

The bottom line: EVERY time we use the blending solution, and every time we use the alcohol, we are exposing ourselves to highly toxic substances that we breathe in (if not using a mask).  Think about the long term possibilities of that fact…

How all these toxicants (without a proper mask) have effected ME

Now my experience may not not be yours. BUT it could for “some” of you. And it definitely could the longer you expose yourself to these toxicants by using your alcohol inks a lot, as I do.

I started using alcohol ink in March of 2016. And though I didn’t connect it, I was having a lot of problems over the next few months. One was lack of oxygen–I would just get breathless climbing stairs. And I would run out of gas VERY easily if I tried to do much, which would take me four days to recover. Also, I was having word recall problems, and a test I did revealed I had brain inflammation.

By October of 2016, I contacted a doctor friend of mine who ordered some very different kind of tests (that’s a different story which I’m not going to go into here). I had MAJOR inflammation, i.e Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome–the same issue some get with exposure to mold. With my labs, I also had what is called hypoperfusion–my capillaries have not been getting oxygen to my mitochondria well, thus breathlessness and easy fatigue. All this was caused by me being exposed to a biotoxin.

At first, I thought that biotoxin was mold in the basement. I did a test by Mycometrics last February, and my basement was a bit too high with mold. But I knew where the mold were coming from–very old family oil paintings that I had on the walls. Those frames are what I had primarily wiped a test cloth on. So I removed them. I got the GermGuardian and the Air Oasis.  I also did key steps in getting well again, developed by a Dr. named Shoemaker.

But…I wasn’t getting well…and I couldn’t figure out why.

THEN IT HIT ME when I used this Air Quality Monitor–my inflammation, hypoperfusion, and other issues were most likely the result of me breathing in the alcohol ink, and perhaps the Ethanol. I had been poisoning myself!!!

Now again, my experience may not be yours. But it underscores that ALL OF YOU, if you are not consistently using a quality vapor mask each and every time you use alcohol, alcohol ink, the blending solution and the pens, you are being exposed to toxic chemicals. And they just might harm you long term as they have me short-term. But I’ll let you decide.

My solution

I need to wear a vapor mask all the time I’m doing alcohol ink painting. And I’m thinking of adding one more air filter machine in my studio. And something that has dawned on meto put a small fan to blow right where I’m using alcohol ink, alcohol itself, and the blending solution!! It can blow away from me and towards the room filters I’m using.

And because of the damage they have done to me, I’m using 4 Activated Charcoal capsules every night to remove any lingering chemicals from my body. There are several brands on Amazon, for example.

About masks

Now as far as respiratory masks and reviews, it appears we need masks that have a focus against vapors, not particles. There are several to consider…BUT I am not making recommendations. I want each person to decide for themselves:

  1. Here’s on that outright says it’s for vapors, has good ratings and is cheap. https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B007JZ1P8A/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1.
  2. Here’s another for vapors, but you have to buy a pair, so it’s the price you see times two. On Amazon, it’s too expensive as I’m writing this–an outside seller. So here’s where you can get them cheaper on WalMart. The one bad thing is that it says it’s only for 8 hours of “concentrated solvent filtering”: https://www.walmart.com/ip/3M-07193-Dual-Cartridge-Respirator-Assembly-Organic-Vapor-P95-Large-2-Pack/166483488
  3. I have this one by 3M–they make great masks, and it’s cheap, and I like the pink. lol. The information states it’s for vapors, but it’s not as pronounced as a focus as #1 and 2. I’m going to try it out and see.
  4. This one by Cambridge Mask Company is especially for gas-emitted fumes, the info says. It only has 50% 5 stars because people are complaining about the straps being problematic, or the seal of the mask not working well. I’m willing to see if it will work for me…PLUS it’s fun looking. lol. So we’ll see. Here’s the website: https://cambridgemask.com/

I DID ANOTHER EXPERIMENT A DAY AFTER ALL THE ABOVE

Keep in mind that the goal, when using the air quality monitor, is to find your rooms or house with an HCHO less than or equal to .10….TOVC less than or equal to .6–.

So I did another experiment in my studio–this is NOT about using alcohol ink, but whether the studio in the basement as a whole is good.

    1. The Germ Guardian was not on, but the Air Oasis had been on all night. I first tested the air quality by my studio table and got the same MILD POLLUTE with the HCHO at .08 (formaldehyde and which fits the above goal) and the TVOC at .402 (gas emitting chemicals and which fits the above goal).
    2. I then turned on the Germ Guardian Hepa Air filter, which was just over 2 1/2′ away, and left it on for five minutes. The new reading was virtually the same, but now had the green GOOD AIR. Weird. I did conclude that:either the Germ Guardian is doing nothing, or I need to change the filter, OR it’s done a fine job with the Air Oasis in creating a stable environment whether off all night, or on. Who knows.
    3. Several hours later, after the Germ Guardian was still on, I did a 3rd experiment. This time, the HCHO was now less than earlier at .0201 (formaldehyde) but the TVOC was now higher at 1.003 (gas emitting chemicals) and did not qualify for the above goal…but still a MILD POLLUTE. 

ABOUT COPIC REFILLS, COPIC PENS and TOUCH PENS

I also tested COPIC REFILLS. Note that my studio measurement this time was this: HCHO (formaldehyde) was .088 and TVOC (mixed Volatile Organic Compounds) was 0.435….and GOOD AIR.

Copic refills gave me this: HCHO 1.022 and TVOC 5.127…and SERIOUS POLUTE

I also tested Copic pens and the Touch pens–both gave me the highest reading of HCHO 1.999 and TVOC 9.999 and SERIOUS POLLUTE. The pens are just as bad as the straight alcohol and blending solution. The Copic pen is worse than the refill, even though both gave me SERIOUS POLLUTE.

WHAT SOME ALCOHOL INK ARTISTS HAVE ADMITTED

When I posted the above article in different AI groups, there were quite a lot of of concerned or thankful replies from other artists. I was glad, as I hate to see our beloved alcohol inks harm anyone! Many hadn’t noticed any negative effect yet, but agreed that they needed protection so it wouldn’t happen down the line.

There were also several testimonies that AI had, in fact, been harming them. They included headaches, dizziness, coughing, breathlessness, other respiratory issues, and nausea…and two people outright felt like it caused bronchitis.

Of course, these are simply anecdotes, but there is reason to be suspicious when you read all the warnings about “inhaling toxic fumes”.

I was even removed from one of the AI groups for posting about all I discovered, so I’ll hope that those members are in the other groups and read about all this. We all love our alcohol inks, and it’s clear to me and others that protection is important.

Raising my healthy glass of lemon water to all of us as ALCOHOL INK ARTISTS!! 🙂 🙂