Like most occupations and activities, airbrushing poses certain health hazards. Persons who do airbrushing should be aware of these hazards so they can take the necessary precautions and experience the full satisfaction and advantages of airbrushing without having to worry about any harmful consequences.
The two major areas of safety concerns are for the safety of the airbrush user and that of other persons involved in the airbrushing process. Safety of the airbrush user has to do with situations like airbrushing scale models, cakes, cars, textiles and other items when only the airbrush user is present. When other persons, such as customers, are involved, then their safety has to be taken into consideration as well. This applies to airbrushing in fingernail art, body tanning, hair color, makeup, prosthetics, and dental work.
In both cases, the primary concern should be adequate ventilation and respiratory protection. Airbrushes expel paint, dyes and solvents into the air. These particles can be hazardous if inhaled by either the airbrush user or the customer. Airbrushing in an enclosed environment only compounds the risk. Therefore, airbrushing should be done outdoors or in open spaces whenever possible. Otherwise, the room should have free circulating air and exhaust systems to dispel paint particles. The persons involved should wear face masks during the airbrushing operation. A related concern is safety of the eyes. Paint particles and fumes can irritate and harm the eyes. Protective goggles should be worn when airbrushing. Some paints and solvents are more harmful than others. The safest recourse is to have proper nose and eye protective gear at all times, regardless of the material used.
The next safety concern is in the proper handling of materials. Some of the chemicals used in airbrushing can irritate or even burn the skin. Materials which are concentrated should be diluted as required before being used. Exposure of the skin during the airbrushing process should be minimized, and using gloves must be an automatic part of the process. The airbrush needle is a very sharp object and extreme care must be exercised when handling the needle while cleaning or adjusting the airbrush.
The third area of concern has to do with the compressor. There is pressurized air in the compressor and a malfunction can lead to an explosion. An explosion can result in shrapnel which can cause wounds and abrasions. Connections of the various parts of the compressor like hoses, cables, and pipes should always be properly done and regularly checked. The compressor itself must be equipped with a pressure relief valve.
There are other accessories in airbrushing which might pose some hazards, such as sharp blades used for making stencils. Even rags and left over paint and thinners should be properly stored to prevent fire.
One safety practice that is often neglected is to read the manufacturer's instructions, whether this concerns equipment or materials. Proper mixtures, incompatibility with other materials, ideal settings, remedial measures and other information are usually included in this literature. Studying and following the instructions in these labels or brochures can go a long way towards ensuring an accident-free airbrushing job.