Fumes in Class A Health Hazard, Officials Say

Officials at Cambridge Hospital and the Poison Control Center verified yesterday that the recent complaints from students in Visual and Environmental Studies 20ar of excessive fumes from oilpaints are well-founded.

Officials said that the lack of adequate ventilation while using toxic materials could cause the dizziness, shortness of breath and headaches that the students complained about.

"In high enough doses, [toxic materials] can cause headaches, light-headedness, and difficulties concentrating," said Dr. Rose H. Goldman, an assistant professor of environmental sciences and physiology at the Cambridge Hospital Office of Occupational and Environmental Health.

The class used paint consisting of turpentine, Damar varnish and linseed oil, according to Leonie J. Gordon, an administrative officer in the department ofVisual and Environmental Sciences (VES).

"In general, these agents and solvents can beirritants to mucous membranes such as the eyes,nose and throat," Goldman added.

These symptoms are common among artists,according to Linda J. Softley, educator at thePoison Control Center in Boston. "We also haveinquiries from artists who get sick from oilpaints and from the hydrocarbons in theturpentine," she said.


The health problems caused by the lack ofproper ventilation forces Stephanie D. Borns, ateaching fellow for the course, to resign thissemester.

"Had I not quit, I could have ended up with apermanent illness," Borns said.

Gordon said that efforts to give Borns worker'scompensation because of her health problems are inprogress.

"We're doing everything we can to reimburse herfor her medical expenses through workman'scompensation," Gordon said. "The amount she canreceive, however, is very insignificant comparedto those expenses."

On Monday, the Office of Physical Resourcesplans to install a new dilution ventilationsystem, since the old one does not comply withgovernment health standards.

"I hope that they will put in a ventilationsystem that will meet [United States] Office ofSafety and Health requirements," said Borns. "I'mcertain that people will follow up on this.