Not to worry – a properly cleaned and finished gourd poses no risk to its owner!
However, if you plan to work with unfinished gourds, you must recognize that the drying process produces a fair amount of mold – both on the exterior surface and inside the gourd. Mold spores can be extremely small – less than 5 microns, in some cases – and they can cause health problems if inhaled or absorbed through the skin.
If you are new to gourd crafting, you quickly will learn your own sensitivities. For example, many people will notice a "metallic" taste in the mouth or throat when exposed to gourd dust and/or mold. Other symptoms are fits of coughing, running eyes and/or nose, or other cold- or allergy-like symptoms. However, even if you don't notice any of these symptoms, we strongly recommend that you follow these basic health precautions:
Avoid direct skin contact with moldy gourds that have not yet been cleaned. Latex gloves, like those used by the health-care industry, can be purchased by the box at a pharmacy or large chain store. When scrubbing moldy gourds, wear rubber dishwashing gloves.
Avoid inhaling dust particles and mold spores. A high-quality mask or respirator designed to prevent inhalation of minute particles should be worn whenever you are cleaning the exterior, cutting, sanding, or cleaning the interior. We use 3M Model R-6211HC dual-cartridge respirator assembly masks, but other similar masks will be equally effective.
Work outside whenever possible, particularly when cleaning. If you must work indoors, make sure you have good ventilation. A dust-control system is strongly recommended.
Remember that dust particles and mold spores will cling to your clothing and hair. After cleaning, cutting, or sanding, wash up thoroughly and change into clean clothes and wash what you were wearing.
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