Sculptor Poisoned by Toxic Mussel Shells

A sculpture of Adam by Gillian Genser

A Toronto artist who created sculptures by sanding & grinding mussel shells over the past 15 years has been diagnosed with heavy metal poisoning.  Gillian Genser worked with blue mussel shells from Canada’s Atlantic coast, which unknowingly to her were saturated with toxic heavy metals, like lead and arsenic.  The mussels likely grew in water contaminated by industrial waste and made their shells toxic.  She would routinely spend up to 12 hours a day working on her sculpture, grinding and sanding shells.  Though her studio was ventilated, she never took any other precautions to avoid heavy metal residue, which can be absorbed into the body through the skin, inhalation, or consumption.  A personal essay on her art and her health struggles has been published at Toronto Life and can be read at this link.

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