So…I did end up getting the Rembrandts. This was largely because the Alphacolor greyscale pastels really looked like exactly the same colors as I already had.
I have also sent off a question to the website I mentioned earlier…though now that I am looking over the WetCanvas archives, I’m fairly certain that the mystery dangerous substance is probably a contaminant of talc. (Asbestos [a family of fibrous, carcinogenic crystals] is a common contaminant of talc — despite the fact that talc is used extremely commonly in cosmetics [especially face powders, but it’s in other things, too], and used to be the primary ingredient of baby powder. Until, that is, it was linked to cervical cancer.)
This would explain the admonition not to get it in contact with one’s skin. Normally, the danger is through breathing the dust, as the crystals can work their way into one’s lungs and stay there without breaking down, irritating the lungs and eventually causing growths. (They can also float in the air for days at a time.) It’s not a big leap to see that maybe there’s a concern that the crystals could work their way through one’s skin.
Talc might also be a cheaper substitute for Titanium Dioxide, explaining the low price of these pastels. However, I won’t know for sure until I get the message back, tomorrow.
After that…gah. I really don’t know what I’m going to do if I can’t use the Blick pastels, safely. There are darker tones available, just not in as many shades. If I want to go into deep shades, I’ll likely need to pick a color to add to it. (I’m thinking of Ultramarine [“Bluish Grey”]; Caput Mortuum and Chrome Oxide Green [“Green Gray”] were the other two I was looking at — they just seemed a bit saturated [especially Caput Mortuum].) Mouse Grey might also be all right.
I didn’t get the really dark grey Rembrandt because it would be a duplicate; plus, the going price for those little guys at Blick in-store is $5 a stick. With Web Price Matching, it’s less; but from the receipt, it’s impossible to tell how much each one actually cost (unless you only buy one thing). The good thing is that I’m sure that the color I’m missing should be there if I do head back tomorrow, or later.
I was also able to find the one stick I was looking for which was missing by going to the other art store — where there was only one, and it was broken; but this was better than the shattered/crumbled old dead ones at the first store. (Rembrandts dry out after a number of years, and get fragile. What was left of my first one shattered on me like over-dry clay [probably dry kaolin; the pieces even tinkled as they landed on the table] after I rediscovered it about 7-9 years after I bought it [I can’t keep track of that memory…did I ever tell you why I write?].) The price at the second store seemed a bit lower than the price at the first, probably even after Web Price Matching. However, they were sold out of almost all greys.
GaaAaaAh. Now I have to figure out what to do about the deeper colors. I should probably experiment with these first, though. And get working on my Sketchbook assignments…