nancylebov: (green leaves)
[personal profile] nancylebov

A woman poisons herself by making sculpture that involving grinding mussel shells. Mussel shells concentrate heavy metals-- in her case, I don't know how much was from pollution and how much was just sea water.

There's a lot to be said about possibly overvaluing art and certainly being wrong that everything natural is safe.... not that grinding mussel shells with inadequate ventilation is exactly natural behavior.

If you have a bunch of weird symptoms, get your blood tested sooner rather than later if at all possible.

More discussion:

The metafilter discussion includes that safety isn't taught in art school-- I think this implies that art schools aren't using safety precautions.

Artist Beware, Updated and Revised: The Hazards in Working with All Art and Craft Materials and the Precautions Every Artist and Craftsperson Should Take

Some really cursory research suggests that eating mussels now and then isn't considered dangerous, for what that's worth.

Date: 2018-12-01 03:28 pm (UTC)
crystalpyramid: crystal pyramid suspended in dimensional abnormality (Default)
From: [personal profile] crystalpyramid
I've gotten the impression that in the average high school the chemistry department is the only group of people who have been trained in how to handle hazardous materials, and they often have to talk everyone else into taking them seriously.

Date: 2018-12-01 06:45 pm (UTC)
batwrangler: Just for me. (Default)
From: [personal profile] batwrangler
She makes the oh-so-common mistake of equating “all natural” with “harmless”. Many, many harmful and deadly things are naturally occurring. Many natural things are harmless only in certain contexts/amounts. Even water can kill you if you are submerged in it or drink too much!

Date: 2018-12-01 09:38 pm (UTC)
siderea: (Default)
From: [personal profile] siderea
Waitaminite. Usually, I'm totes down for this argument (says the woman who has spent the last three months writing about all-natural infectious illnesses).

However, mussel shells naturally are – if I understand correctly – generally not anywhere as dangerous as they were to her, because the ones she was using were unnaturally poisoned by human polution.

It seems unfair to blame her for assuming that a natural thing was not a source of toxins when the thing was a source of toxins because people poisoned it. Her assumption wasn't wrong because natural things are dangerous. Her assumption was wrong because humans are terrible and do terrible things to nature.

Date: 2018-12-01 11:29 pm (UTC)
batwrangler: Just for me. (Default)
From: [personal profile] batwrangler
You have a point, though what caught my attention was that she dismissed ALL her materials as being the source of her problems on the basis that she only worked in "natural" ones.* And she only posits that the shells were from polluted areas. They certainly COULD have been and some *probably* even were, but there are places where water is high in lead and other things "naturally" on account of the naturally occurring geography around it. Also, there are common warnings against consuming fish and shell fish specifically because they can contain mercury in the form of methylmercury. So it seems that assuming shell dust is safe is a case of not paying attention to disparate things that you probably already know and how they interact?

Asbestos is naturally occurring and we know how harmful it can be. The feather dust of pet birds which can contribute to lung disease is naturally occurring. You can eat apple seeds, but even organic ones contain all-natural cyanide which wouldn't normally be an issue, but if someone convinced you appleseed puree was the next hot health trend, you could probably poison yourself with them -- or if you decided to grind your own as an art material...

She says in her original article: "I visited a never-ending assortment of specialists—neurologists, rheumatologists, endocrinologists—hoping to figure out what was wrong with me. When they asked me if I worked with anything toxic, I said no, that I only used natural materials."

So her specialists seem also to have made the same mistake of conflating "natural" with "non-toxic".
Edited (Added quote from artist's own article) Date: 2018-12-01 11:37 pm (UTC)

Date: 2018-12-01 11:59 pm (UTC)
siderea: (Default)
From: [personal profile] siderea

but if someone convinced you appleseed puree was the next hot health trend

Apple jack. There's two ways of distilling hard cider to hard spirits, and the traditional New Hampshire way of doing it, glaciation, concentrates any chemicals in what is being distilled (the opposite of more conventional distillation, a la moonshine, which purifies the alcohol). I've heard it suggested, and never gotten an authoritative answer on this, that apple jack runs the risk of having dangerous levels of cyanide if the cider has seeds in. /public service announcement

So her specialists seem also to have made the same mistake of conflating "natural" with "non-toxic".

Yeah, but, again, the problem isn't in realizing that natural things have natural dangers, it's in realizing that natural things are now no longer natural.

Date: 2018-12-02 12:05 am (UTC)
batwrangler: Just for me. (Default)
From: [personal profile] batwrangler
What I'm reading in her article is EXACTLY a failure to acknowledge that natural things have natural (and can have unnatural) dangers. She didn't look at ANY of her materials simply because they were natural, but not because she knew that they were were natural AND naturally non-toxic.

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