Custom Should Cadmium Oil Paints be Banned? essay paper sample

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Should Cadmium Oil Paints be Banned?

Media is always interested in politics, economy or different gossips while art is not widely reflected in the news, except for occasions, when some pictures are stolen or found. The recent scandal connected with art raised a wave of discussions not only among the artists but in the environment defenders’ communities and among common people. The cause of this scandal is oil paints that contain cadmium, the waste of which may get into food through the water or soils and poison people. The main issue of this paper is whether artists should refuse to use cadmium-containing paints for the purpose of saving environment and health, even though it may inevitably influence the quality of their work.

Cadmium (Cd), with the atomic number 48 in the periodical table, is a soft silver-white metal that tarnishes in air. It is mainly found in the Earth’s crust in combination with zinc. There is no need to mine cadmium because it can be obtained as a by-product of lead, zinc and copper extraction. Three-fourths of this metal is used for producing Ni-Cd batteries, the rest is applied for pigments, coating, plating, and as stabilizers for plastic ("Cadmium (CD)").

In article "Cadmium: The Rare Paint Pigment Faces a Europe-wide Ban and Artists Are Seeing Red," Nick Clark and Sarah Allidina discuss the harm of cadmium-containing paints. The scandal burst in autumn of 2014, when the European Chemical Agency received a complaint from Sweden that called for the ban. The authors develop their argument on the concern about the way artists dispose of the waste paints after finishing the work, namely rinsing brushes in the sink. Due to that, cadmium gets into the soils with water, from where they may get to plants and animals’ organisms (Clark and Allidina). The main cadmium-rich animal products are liver, mushrooms, mussels and seafood. Eating these products may cause cadmium exposure. Sweden government was disturbed about the possibility of people’s cadmium exposure through food. They claimed that the metal may severely damage peole. It may seriously affect digestive, blood, immune, central nervous systems and lead to problems with stomach, psychological disorders, reproductive failure and even cancer development.

From the first glance, these facts are enough to forbid producing cadmium-containing paint and using it for work. However, the production of pigments out of cadmium is minor, compared to other industries. The major ways of cadmium infiltration into the soils and water is producing Ni-Cd batteries and extracting copper and lead. These industries’ waste pollutes the environment in much more considerable way that through rinsing brushes. In comparison, the amount of cadmium, which painters may wash off and , thus, pollute the water system, is minute. Hence, the chances to be exposed to the metal in such a way are little. Besides, the greatest menace is posed to smokers, not to those who take care of their health. Although justifiable, the concerns of the Sweden government and considering artists a threat to the environment do not seem consistent enough from the point of chemical studies and industrial statistics.

Kabir Chibber, in the latest article "Sunshine in a Tube. Europe Almost Banned the Thing That Made Monet’s and Van Gogh’s Paintings so Vivid." for Quarz informs that thousands of artists signed a petition against the ban, insisting that the absence of cadmium paints in their palette is a disaster (2015). Cadmium creates a unique blurring for red and yellow tints in the pictures. For more than a hundred years, it was used by the greatest modernist artists in different artistic movements. The most famous pictures of Sezanne, Monnet, Van Gogh, Edward Munch contain cadmium paints, which are the reason why these paintings remained in the same condition as they were a hundred years ago. The pigments did not vanish, as they could have done if contained organic paints only.

Allia Rizvi, the brand director of Winton, one of the oldest and the most respectable fine products companies, maintains that cadmium has importtance for both modern art and that of the past. She admits that it is toxic; however, she also states that amateur artist would not use them. Only professional artists apply cadmium paints, as they are expensive. Besides, due to these pigments, the pictures do not fade throughout the years, what is crucial for professionals not amateurs of fine art. Artist community claims that cadmium is essential and even indispensable for specific works. Some of them even gave a metaphoric name for cadmium paints – “sunshine in the tube” (Chiber).

More than half of the year, cadmium was banned in Europe while the researches were being conducted. Finally, as Quarz revealed on 2 November, 2015, the EU vetoed the cadmium ban because even Sweden agreed that potential reduce of cadmium pollution rate by 0.006% is too small (Chibber). However, this attempt was not the first in the history of art. In 1990s, the US tried to ban cadmium but failed as well. There is the possibility that there will be other attempts to ban cadmium-containing paints due their toxicity. One of them might work as well as it was with toluene.

The argument, which advocates cadmium paints, suggested by Chiffer, has more emotional context and seems stronger if to compare with Clark and Allidina’s insisting on the cadmium danger, since its influence on the environment in minor. Nevertheless, despite all the artists’ petitions and indicating historical and practical advantages, the element damages health and causes harm, even if it is minor. The best possible decision is to invent a valid alternative, regardless position of traditionalists, who would not abandon the idea.

In my opinion, the EU should pay more attention to other urgent problems now, since banning cadmium from artistic usage will not contribute to saving the environment. Professional artists should be free in using any materials for their work, even if it may be not eco-friendly, as the real danger is factories and different plants, manufacturing industrial products.

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