Health & Safety Issues: Working with Gourds

Joy Jackson and Jerry Lewis, 2003 Gourd Artists Gathering

Hi ‘Patchers! The following is a page from the flyer that Jerry and I have put in the Registration Packets for the Gathering regarding safety and health.  This is not the only safety/health measure that has been taken for the Gathering, just one of several.  We believe it would be unethical not to offer new gourders information relating to health and safety issues associated with working with gourds, whether it is during a convention of gourd artists or in a one-on-one conversation with someone who mentions an interest in trying their hand at it.

NOTE: This flyer has not been paid for with Gathering funds – it is a personal contribution from Joy Jackson and Jerry Lewis.

Basics of Gourd Health

When working with gourds, the following common sense measures and easy-to-find products will help keep you healthy and happily crafting.

Gloves:  Avoid direct skin contact with moldy gourds which have not yet been cleaned.  Some people also cannot handle cleaned gourds without gloves.  A metallic taste in the mouth is the first sign of this tactile-taste problem.  Vinyl gloves like those used by the health industry can be purchased by the box at your local pharmacies and large chain stores.  When scrubbing gourds, dishwashing gloves are recommended.

Mask or Respirator: Airborne dust particles and mold spores from gourds should be avoided just as any other type of airborne particulate should be.  A mask or respirator designed to prevent inhalation of these minute particles should be worn when cleaning the outside surface, sanding, cutting, and cleaning inside surfaces of a gourd.

Work with gourds outside whenever possible.  If you must work inside, make sure you have good ventilation and a dust control system is strongly recommended.

Dust particles and mold spores will cling to clothing and hair.  After working with gourds in the cleaning, sanding, cutting, carving, etc. stages, change into clean clothes and wash the ones you were wearing.  Keeping your hair covered while stirring up gourd dust or mold is also a good preventive measure.

If you are new to gourds, you will soon learn your sensitivities to them, if any, and the measures you’ll need to take when working with them. The first signs of a problem will most likely be a metallic taste in the mouth, fits of coughing, or sneezing with runny eyes and nose as in an allergy attack. The measures and protective items mentioned above are the first steps to maintaining good health while working with gourds. They should be followed even if you don’t notice any sensitivities at all. Gourds, like many other pollutants in the environment we come in contact with throughout our lives, don’t always send up an immediate signal that they are causing a problem.

Gourds are a wonderful natural resource to work with, providing many creative opportunities and practical uses.  So let’s all gourd in good health!