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December 14, 1984

Environmental Hazards to Elderly Artists

Author Affiliations

Case Western Reserve University Cleveland

JAMA. 1984;252(22):3130. doi:10.1001/jama.1984.03350220038021

To the Editor.—  The MEDICAL NEWS report on art-related hazards was both timely and informative.1 Often overlooked, however, are the artists who are among the nation's elderly (25.5 million people older than 65 years in 1980).2 In a recent summer research project, I found that artrelated hazards may be a major cause of preventable toxic exposure in the elderly community. As a medical student, I completed 37 in-depth occupational histories in an Arizona retirement community (19 men, 18 women; average age, 74 years).3 Of this series, ten (27%) persons attributed a chronic disability to a past occupational exposure, while four (11%) persons had recently experienced symptom-producing art-related exposures (three painting and one woodworking).Retirement is a time for many people to pursue a favorite hobby, and some of these can involve hazardous chemical exposures. My study indicates that many retired persons devote so much time to these