Toxicologist says finger paints could cause illness
April 17, 1998
One of the sick children
Web posted at: 10:37 p.m. EDT (0237 GMT)
(CNN) -- A toxicologist who studies art products said Thursday he had never heard of finger paints making someone ill, but theorized that it could happen if ineffective preservatives had been used or if the preservatives had grown old.
On Thursday, more than 60 students and a handful of teachers at a Manchester, New Hampshire, elementary school were sent to hospitals after finger paints thought to be outdated and containing bacteria gave off odors that made the students and teachers vomit.
Dr. Wooodhall Stopford, a physician and toxicologist at Duke University, is a consultant for companies that make art products. He said finger paints are potentially problematic because children stick their hands -- and not a brush -- directly into the jar of paint.
Germs from the hands could then grow in the paint.
He said companies use a variety of preservatives to prevent germs from multiplying, but the preservatives can wear off over time. He says no one knows exactly how long it takes for the preservatives to wear off.
To prevent contamination, Stopford suggests that parents and teachers pour some paint into a separate container each time a child finger paints so that their hands don't contaminate the main jar.