- Chamois is a soft leather cloth that is rubbed against the artwork to blend dry media such as charcoal and pastel. 1
- Chamois was traditionally made from the chamois goat, but today may be made from sheep and other livestock. 2 To produce leather, the skin is tanned with fish oil, and softened through a mechanical process. 3 Fish oil is collected during the manufacturing of fish meal (an animal feed and fertilizer). Fish meal is made from fishing industry waste, as well as fish caught specifically to be processed. 4
- The fish oil tanning process is less harmful to the environment than mineral based processes and can be sustainable if fish populations are well-managed. 5, 6 However it is likely that anti-bacterial agents and corrosive fur-removing agents, which are standard in leather-making, are used in the chamois process. These can cause great ecological damage if released. 5 The raising of livestock for slaughter requires significant amounts of land and water, and can also pollute waterways. 6
- The chamois tanning process is relatively safe for humans. However, in general leather manufacturing is of great health concern for humans, since it uses chromium, lead, arsenic and other toxic chemicals which can poison workers and the surrounding community. Corrosive fur-removal agents can cause skin burns. 5
- Poorly regulated leather tanning operations can cause serious damage to the surrounding community by making the land infertile, impacting the taste and smell of water, and clogging sewage systems. 6 This has occurred in Pakistan and India. 5, 7
Safe Use and Exposure
- Avoid breathing in dust from chamois cloth, or the charcoal embedded in it after use.
- Dispose of in regular trash, or donate usable chamois to the givetake.
- Synthetic chamois are manufactured. 2 Blending can also be achieved using other materials, such as various kinds of cloth, tissue paper, or a blending stump.
- “PRO ART Small Chamois 3×4”, CF2 Inc. http://bit.ly/2bTcVO2
- “Why Sheepskin Leather for Chamois”, Chamois Info, http://bit.ly/2coO4ol
- “How is a Chamois Made”, Chamois Info, http://bit.ly/2bTTd9P
- “The Production of Fish Meal and Oil”, FAO Corporate Document Repository, http://bit.ly/2chIEOz
- “Tanning”, Wikipedia, http://bit.ly/2cBT9vl
- “The Environmental Impact of the Animal Processing Industries”, FAO, http://bit.ly/2coNkzp
- “Effects of leather industry on health and recommendations for improving the situation in Pakistan”, Pubmed.gov, http://bit.ly/2c838Vc