The Art and Creative Materials Institute, Inc.
Safety Tips - What You Need To Know

What Is ACMI?

The Art And Creative Materials Institute, Inc. (ACMI) is a non-profit association of manufacturers of art, craft and other creative materials. Formerly known as The Crayon, Water Color & Craft Institute, Inc., it was re-organized and expanded in 1982 to include more types of art materials and was re-named The Art And Craft Materials Institute, Inc. The name of the association has recently been changed to The Art And Creative Materials Institute, Inc. to more accurately reflect the wide variety of materials in its certification program. Since 1940, ACMI has sponsored a certification program for children's art materials, certifying that these products are non-toxic and meet voluntary standards of quality and performance. ACMI's certification program has received the endorsement of experts in the field of toxicology and is one of the finest industry programs in existence. The program has been a responsive one, evolving to meet new challenges and to include ever more products. In 1982, the program was expanded to include certification of a broad spectrum of art and craft materials, including adult products, ensuring that health warning labels are affixed on adult materials where appropriate. All children's materials certified by ACMI are non-toxic and cannot bear health warning labels. Today ACMI has over 200 members and has certified over 60,000 art, craft and other creative materials. ACMI seeks to create and maintain a positive environment for art, craft and other creative materials usage; to promote safety in these materials; and to serve as an information and service resource on such products. In these ways, ACMI provides leadership, guidance, and education to all to achieve greater participation in art, craft and other creative activities.

How does a product get approved by ACMI?

ACMI has a consulting toxicology team at Duke University's Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, who review the complete formulas of products in the certification program. In this evaluation, the toxicology team take into account:

  • Each ingredient and its quantity
  • Possible adverse interaction with other ingredients
  • The product's size and packaging
  • Potential acute and chronic harm to any part of the human body
  • Possible allergic reaction
  • How a product is commonly used and misused
  • U. S. national and state labeling regulations.

The Toxicologists must approve the formula of every color of every product and must approve every formula change. Safety is the only consideration. The toxicology team keeps informed of new scientific data on ingredients from government and private sources. Previously-approved ingredients have been banned and restrictions established when new developments have occurred. Cautionary labeling is required on products when appropriate. All products certified as non-toxic by ACMI are non-toxic for both children and adults because the Toxicologists base their evaluation on the use and misuse (such as ingesting a material) of the product by a small child. The decisions of the toxicology team are final, subject only to appeal by ACMI's Toxicological Advisory Board, which is composed of leading toxicological experts in the United States. These toxicologists act as a review board on issues of toxicity. They review the criteria used by ACMI's toxicology team and make recommendations to ACMI. Current members of the Toxicological Advisory Board are: Elaina Kenyon, M.D., Toxicologist, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Dr. John H. Mennear, Consultant Scientist in Pharmacology and Toxicology; and Thomas B. Starr, Ph.D., Principal, TBS Associates.

What do the ACMI Seals mean?

Approved Product The new AP (Approved Product) Seal, with or without Performance Certification, identifies art materials that are safe and that are certified in a toxicological evaluation by a medical expert to contain no materials in sufficient quantities to be toxic or injurious to humans, including children, or to cause acute or chronic health problems. Such products are certified by ACMI to be labeled in accordance with the chronic hazard labeling standard, ASTM D 4236, and the      U. S. Labeling of Hazardous Art Materials Act (LHAMA). Additionally, products bearing the AP Seal with Performance Certification are certified to meet specific requirements of material, workmanship, working qualities, and color developed by ACMI and others through recognized standards organizations, such as the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).  Some products cannot attain this performance certification because no quality standard currently exists for certain types of products.

Cl The CL Seal identifies products that are certified to be properly labeled in a program of toxicological evaluation by a medical expert for any known health risks and with information on the safe and proper use of these materials.  This Seal appears on only 15% of the adult art materials in ACMI's certification program and on none of the children's materials.  These products are also certified by ACMI to be labeled in accordance with the chronic hazard labeling standard, ASTM D 4236, and the U. S. Labeling of Hazardous Art Materials Act (LHAMA).

What makes an art material "safe"?

Knowledge of materials and their proper use makes them safe.  Be sure to read the label on all products you use so you will know they have been evaluated and are non-toxic or need special handling to avoid possible health hazards from misuse.  Look for the ACMI Seals so you will know the product has been evaluated by a qualified toxicologist for both acute and chronic hazards.  Or, you may see other indications that the product conforms to ASTM D 4236, the chronic hazard labeling standard that is now part of the   U.S. labeling law.  Follow all safe use instructions.  Purchase only products with the ACMI AP Non-Toxic Seal for young children, the physically or mentally handicapped, and any persons who cannot read or understand the safety labeling on product packages.  Observe good work habits and teach them to others. 

Read the label! Always use products that are appropriate for the individual user. Children in grade six and lower and adults who may not be able to read and understand safety labeling should use only non-toxic materials. Do not eat, drink or smoke while using art and craft materials. Wash up after use - Clean yourself and your supplies. Never use products for skin painting or food preparation unless indicated that the product is meant to be used in this way. Do not transfer art materials to other containers - You will lose the valuable safety information that is on the product package.

Although the safety precautions below are not necessary with ACMI-certified non-toxic products, they are good habits to learn and practice with any art material use. Above all, purchase art materials that have been evaluated with your safety in mind, and read and follow any label directions to safely enjoy rewarding art, craft and other creative activities.

Where can I get more information?

ACMI has an informational CD available upon request. This CD contains the following information:

  • Safety booklet
  • Listing of ACMI-Certified Products
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Listing of ACMI Members
  • Listing of ACMI Officers and Directors
  • Ceramic Guidelines
  • CPSC Art and Craft Safety Guide
  • and more!
  • To receive a copy of the ACMI information CD, please email your request to Debbie Gustafson ( or Debbie Munroe ( at ACMI Headquarters.

Safety tips

Products that are hazardous require the following on their labels:
  • A conformance statement to ASTM D 4236, unless impractical and, if so, then at the point of sale (This requirement also applies to non-toxic products.)
  • A signal word, such as Warning or Caution
  • A listing of the ingredients in the product that are at a hazardous level
  • A listing of how the product may hurt you if not used properly (May cause lung cancer, may cause harm to the developing fetus, etc.)
  • Instructions on how to use the product properly and safely (Do not eat, drink, or smoke; use a respirator; wear gloves; etc.)
  • An appropriate telephone number; this will usually be the telephone number of the manufacturer or importer.
  • A statement that the product is inappropriate for use by children.

Additional procedures to follow when using products that have cautionary labeling:
  • Keep products out of reach of children.
  • Keep your work area clean.
  • Vacuum or wet mop dust; don' t sweep it.
  • Don' t put your brush, pen, etc. in your mouth.
  • Keep your work area well ventilated; make sure you have a system that takes out old air AND brings in new air.
  • Avoid skin contact and eating these materials. Keep materials out of your eyes and mouth.
  • Use any and all protective equipment specified on the label,such as gloves, safety glasses, and masks.
  • Use a mask or gloves that are impermeable to whatever product you are using; the wrong type of equipment could do as much or more harm than using no equipment at all!
  • Protect any cuts or open wounds by using the appropriate gloves, etc.
  • Mix and handle certain dry materials in a locally-exhausting hood or sealed box.
  • Spray apply certain materials only in a locally-exhausting spray booth with filters.
  • Do not mix different food-safe glazes together because the balance of ingredients in the mixed glaze will be disrupted and the resulting mixture may not be dinnerware safe.
  • Carefully follow suggested disposal methods.

Procedures to follow when a product has a flammability warning:
  • Do not store or use product near heat, sparks or flame.
  • Do not heat above the temperature specified on the label.
  • Use explosion-proof switches and an exhaust fan with an explosion-proof motor, if specified on the label.