(Excerpts from ART HARDWARE: The Definitive Guide to Artists’ Materials, by Steven Saitzyk © 1987 revised 1998)
Although hazards are discussed in depth in the section on hazards, it is important to stress here the primary danger, not the sole danger, in working with oil paints lies with the use of thinners.
Turpentine, until recently, had been thought to be one of the safer thinners that an artist could use, but now it has been rediscovered that turpentine can enter the body not only by inhalation, but through the skin. I say rediscovered because during the nineteenth century turpentine was used as liniment to carry herbs and other remedies into the body through the skin. Today, it seems to be a big surprise to everyone that turpentine can pass through the skin and take hazardous pigments with them. There have been reports of kidney damage and changes in the bone marrow in a very small percentage of painters who were said to be using this thinner as any average painter would. Even worse is the physical damage to painters who use industrial thinners, which often contain far more hazardous chemicals.
Common sense, good work habits, and some basic knowledge about the hazards concerning the materials you use could save your life or, at least, the quality of your life.