What do the AP and CL Symbols Mean on the Back of Art Supply Boxes?

If you do not read anything after this do not buy any art supplies for kids without an AP symbol on the back or bottom of the box. This shows that the art supply conforms with ASTM D-4236 and is safe for kids. If you want to know why read on... 

In my former life I worked as an engineer. During my time at college I worked in a carbon fiber lab making lots of different designs with the carbon fiber and resins. Sometimes the resins were incorporated into the carbon fiber and sometimes they were separate and needed to be incorporated together. We also had many other chemicals. While working at this lab I became concerned with the chemicals that surrounded us every day and wondered if they had any harmful effects. At that time the industry had Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS). I made it my mission to find all these sheets and put them in a binder for reference for every chemical we had in the lab. Now they are called SDS sheets (Safety Data Sheets).

How does this relate to art supplies? Art supplies are made with chemicals and some of those chemicals can be toxics to human beings. The Art and Creative Materials Institute was formed in the 1950's to help keep children's art materials safe. Before this there was no indication on any box on the safety of the material. In 1982 the program expanded to include adult supplies and to include new different seals.

These seals are based on ASTM D-4236. This document contains information on using precautionary labels on art materials that contain hazardous materials. It was made a law in 1988, Label of Hazardous Art Materials Act and has become the standard. Every box or product of art materials is labeled with a symbol and that it conforms to ASTM D-4326. 

AP Symbol

The AP, Approved Product Seal indicates that the art material is safe for kids to use. It does not contain materials that are toxic. 

CL Symbol

The CL, Cautionary Label identifies products that have health risks when used. It can not appear on kids materials.

This box contains both seals due to the metal in the metallic pencils.

I had seen these labels on many products because I often take pictures of the back and front of art supply boxes, but had no idea what they meant. I was talking to Holbein  at Creativation/Art Materials World and they told me about it. I was so grateful.

What will I change after learning this? I have many older crayon supplies and wonder what these contain. They will stay in their boxes and I should even use gloves when handling and possibly a mask. Also I will not buy my kids anything that does not contain an AP symbol on the back or bottom of the box. I hurriedly bought my daughter some Mondo Llama, the new Target brand of art supplies at Easter and noticed it does not have this symbol on the back. No more of this art supply for my daughter. Also many budget and dollar art supplies do not have this symbol. I have been throwing out those crayons since asbestos were found in some Dollar Tree and Playskool crayons and now will not buy anything without the symbol. Crayola products did not have asbestos in their crayons or BTEX Chemicals in markers. Another reason I love them.

Make sure to look for these symbols!

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