Painters, actors, and other artists face a wide range of hazardous occupational exposures and working conditions, according to a special article collection in the September Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

“Art workers often have little knowledge about the occupational hazards they encounter and are often aware of sources of further information,” write David L. Hinkamp, MD, MPH, of University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health and colleagues. The authors encourage occupational health professionals to use their expertise to contribute to the health and safety of visual and performing artists.

In three linked reviews, Dr. Hinkamp and colleagues present a wealth of information on the occupational health and safety issues facing artists. In the visual arts, health hazards are typically associated with hazardous materials, tools, and equipment. Painters may be exposed to pigments and solvents by inhalation, ingestion, or through the skin, leading to an increased risk of cancers and other adverse health effects.

The review also looks at hazards specific to other visual arts, such as printmaking, sculpture, and ceramics. “An improved understanding of how to effect health and safety changes among art workers could benefit artisans and their workplaces around the world,” Dr. Hinkamp and coauthors write.

Occupational hazards facing performing artists are more likely to be related to musculoskeletal injuries. Dancers and musicians may develop overuse injuries that can hinder their ability to perform and practice. Actors and others working in theater environments are at risk of falls and other hazards related to working conditions: heights, low lighting, cramped spaces, etc.

Dr. Hinkamp and colleagues note that most of the hazards facing visual and performing artists — and the means of assessing and protecting against those risks — are familiar to the specialty of occupational and environmental medicine. The authors conclude, “We, as occupational health professionals, have a great opportunity to contribute our skills and expertise to our neighbors in the arts in order to help them remain healthy and productive.”


  • Hinkamp DL, McCann M, Babin A Occupational health and the arts. J Occup Environ Med. 2017;59(9):835-42.
  • Hinkamp D, Morton J, Krasnow DH, et al. Occupational health and the performing arts: an introduction. J Occup Environ Med. 2017;59(9):843-58.
  • Hinkamp D, McCann M, Babin AR. Occupational health and the visual arts: an introduction. J Occup Environ Med. 2017;59(9):859-66.

About ACOEM — ACOEM (, an international society of 4,500 occupational physicians and other health care professionals, provides leadership to promote optimal health and safety of workers, workplaces, and environments.

About the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine — The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine ( is the official journal of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Edited to serve as a guide for physicians, nurses, and researchers, the clinically oriented research articles are an excellent source for new ideas, concepts, techniques, and procedures that can be readily applied in the industrial or commercial employment setting.