The future is bright for artists across Europe after politicians announced yesterday (28 October), they will not enforce a Europe-wide ban on cadmium pigment. The U-turn came following extensive public consultation with artists and paint-makers, who objected to a palette without the golden yellows, fiery oranges and deep maroons created from cadmium and used by masters such as Monet, Cézanne and Munch since the 1840s.
“While we discussed the technical case for cadmium pigments, many artists were passionately able to stress the economic and artistic importance of cadmiums as they uniquely bring warmth, light, strength and colour to paintings to stand the test of time,” says Rachel Volpé of Spectrum Paints, a British paint-maker that campaigned against the ban.
The EU considered a restriction on cadmium following pressure from Sweden, which argued that artists pollute the food chain when they rinse their brushes in the sink. Cadmium ends up in sewage sludge and is then spread on agricultural land, according to a report submitted by Sweden to the European Chemical Agency (ECHA) last year.
Cadmium in its pure form is highly toxic, but the cadmium compounds used by artists are not classified as hazardous according to Reach, an EU body that advises on the use of chemicals.
Michael Craine, the managing director of Spectrum Paints, says the real problem is nickel cadmium batteries, which are buried in landfills and leak into the watercourse. “Not only is the change of heart over cadmium a joyous occasion, the fact that the artist fraternity is recognised as a community in its own right is an exciting development and one that should help us protect our mutual interests in the future,” he says.