Darkroom respirators

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by Alexandra, Jul 9, 2011.

  1. Alexandra

    Alexandra Member

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    Hi!
    I have had a darkroom for over six years, and it used to be in a very poorly ventilated room, but I was pretty young and didn't care enough.
    Now I have a larger room with more air, but no ventilation whatsoever. Since I mix both liquids and powders there, I've been concerned with health issues lately, as I get somewhat dizzy after an hour or so if the chemicals are fresh. I used to use a simple face mask from the pharmacy, the kind you'd use for cleaning your bathroom, but I've been looking for something more advanced.
    Recently, my boyfriend bought me a respirator, but I'm wondering if it's the right kind.
    It's a 3M respirator with cartridges against organic vapor and acid gas and a p100 particle filter.
    From what I have read organic vapor and particle filters is what I should be looking for, but I'm not quite sure.
    Can anyone confirm I have the right stuff or recommend a better alternative?
     
  2. Bob-D659

    Bob-D659 Member

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    Add some ventilation, most likely the oxygen content is dropping and the carbon dioxide level is rising, both will make you feel dizzy and sick. There is no need to mix powdered chems in a closed room. I mix up D76 and Dektol by pouring the powder into 3 liters of water in a 4 liter bottle, put the cap on and mix by inversion. Works perfectly and no airborne dust, just add 1/3 of the powder, mix, add more, mix add final, mix, top up to 4 liters. The bottles are the 4 liter ones of distilled water from Shoppers Drug Mart, $0.99 on sale. :smile:

    The only real option other than ventilation is a mask and a source of breathable air. EXPENSIVE.
     
  3. sandholm

    sandholm Subscriber

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    Can only agree, also I bought a cheep (for small room) HEPA filter (dont get anything that does not have HEPA filter) air purifier, and my room in the basement has crisp air, and the room is (almost) dust free, best investment i have made in my darkroom this year.
     
  4. Alexandra

    Alexandra Member

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    Thanks Bob! Sounds like an interesting option. However, I don't get to use the darkroom so often now, so I usually just mix enough solutions for immediate needs, since there's a good chance they'll expire by next time I get there. So I have to weight the powders on scales and transfer them to beakers and that creates a lot of airborne dust.
    And I think I'm reacting to the liquids as well, because I can clearly feel a higher degree of sickness when I am leaning closer to the trays or when they are fresh.

    So I did get a mask. I'm just looking to confirm it's the right kind...
     
  5. jp80874

    jp80874 Subscriber

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    In my darkroom I use what are called in line fans that are housed in the rafters. My exhaust has duct work down to the side of the sink opposite where I stand. This keeps the fumes from rising out of the trays into my nose as they go to the exhaust fan. Across the room an intake fan brings filtered air into the room behind me.

    Some people have allergies to chemicals common in some developers (metol) and most fixers (ammonia). Usually the more exposure you get, the stronger the reaction. I believe you are receiving a wake up call in the dizziness and other reactions. Failure to respond could be serious.

    John Powers
     
  6. Alexandra

    Alexandra Member

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    Hm. There's something to think about...

    My darkroom is not a very professional one, in fact it's just a room in the basement. I will also likely move several times in the coming years, so I can't invest in any permanent installations. Are there any affordable portable options?

    Also, I only use it once every other week, at most. And I don't do any extravagant processing. Just plain b&w. Very rarely toning. Considering that, will I be alright with a respirator against particles, organic vapors and acid gas and a good fan to move the air around?
     
  7. jp80874

    jp80874 Subscriber

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    People’s allergic reactions are as varied and numerous as the sampling of people. Simply putting a fan in a room will blow any dust on your wet or dry negatives. Blowing the same air around does not give you fresh air to breath or dilute the allergens.

    Do you or any one you can beg for help have any basic carpentry skills? An intake fan or fan and filter can be mounted on a panel that can substitute for an existing panel while you are there and be replaced when you move. An inline fan can be installed in a rafter, exhausting through an exterior wall. When you move, the hole for the exhaust fan can be filled with a panel. Both fans can move with you like a piece of furniture or your enlarger.

    We have 51,000+ members making do with something on the scale between basic to luxury. You need to find a safe place that works for you. If you are sick or worse you can’t enjoy what ever is important to you.

    John
     
  8. Alexandra

    Alexandra Member

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    Now that I think of it, I have an idea.
    I have an air conditioning unit that is now mostly useless because the new place has central AC. My darkroom has a window that I have lightproofed. If I can mount the air conditioner in the window and lightproof around it, perhaps its fan mode would provide enough fresh air?
    Otherwise, the room where my darkroom is presently located opens into my garage, which is considerably large. If I work in the evening or at night when it is dark and when I don't have to fear serious light leaks, I could leave the door open, simply?
    Of course, all of that in combination with a mask.
     
  9. Martin Aislabie

    Martin Aislabie Subscriber

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    I don't have forced ventilation in my darkroom - so I just periodically (30 ~45 min) leave the door open for a few minutes

    Its surprisingly effective

    I don't mix up dry powdered chemicals in there - I do that in a room which has plenty of windows

    Martin
     
  10. Diapositivo

    Diapositivo Subscriber

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    A scuba diving breathing device might work for you needs (I'm serious, but have no scuba stuff experience). Besides that, I would not try to work around the problem with masks and filters.

    A portable air conditioner will typically not take the air from outside or, in any case, will not create the kind of air movement that you want.
    You want a fan which will expel air from your room, and an intake of fresh air from the other side of the room. Your nose should not be above the chemistry when possible, and the air flow should displace the chemical vapours before they reach your nose. Ideally the air intake should be filtered. That's Job Powers advice basically.

    I would add:
    - forget powders, you can find liquid concentrates which will last a lot undiluted, even decades;
    - if really you have to use powders, don't prepare the solutions in the darkroom, as said by others;

    - ask your "home improvement" shopkeeper and make three or four visits there. Installing a fan for taking the air out should be fairly inexpensive, you might have to dismount a window glass (windows in basements are often very simple) and place the extracting fan with some black plastic and some tape.

    Basement windows typically have a hinge on their base and are opened pivoting on their base. If you look at how they are made, you might find that some simple glass is kept in place by some screws. Maybe you can unscrew the screws, remove the glass, put something in its place (mosquito net in the case of my garage) by using the same method. This is a reversible intervention, you can place the glass back and take with you the fan (and the filters, but you'll substitute them from time to time).

    You then take another basement window or two, take the glass away, and put some air filter on them (yes HEPA and HEPA2 filters are ideal but I don't know how easy is to find them in sheets). Just cut the filters the side of the glass and mount them, if possible, in place of the glass.

    The intake windows should be on the other side of the room for optimal air circulation. You would try to maintain your head slightly on the side of the intake.

    Take the habit of not leaning over the chemicals whenever possible. For instance you can try to place an angled mirror over the trays and see how comfortably you work.

    I would not underestimate the signals that your organism is sending to you. That stuff "stinks" in all senses.
     
  11. jp498

    jp498 Member

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    An air conditioner blowing in cool clean air would be an improvement. It could just be on fan rather than cool if needed.

    I have a hepa air cleaner in the darkroom too. If the basement is naturally damp, your darkroom could be accumulating moldy/musty air which can also cause reactions; it would to me.

    Mostly I just get liquid chemicals. Liquid concentrate equivalents are available for most products or for competing products. I mix up powdered chemicals outdoors when necessary.
     
  12. Gerald C Koch

    Gerald C Koch Member

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    It is bad practice to be mixing anything in the darkroom. Spilt powders, if not thoroughly cleaned up, can land on various surfaces and cause problems later with film and papers. Liquids dry out and become powders causing the same problems. Do your mixing in another well ventilated room.
     
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  13. Dan Daniel

    Dan Daniel Subscriber

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    Please, get active ventilation. You need fresh air. And you need air without chemical powders in it. Along with the internal and lung issues, some photo chemicals can create skin allergies with prolonged exposure. Sure, a respirator with cartridges is better than nothing, but they are also uncomfortable after longish periods.

    The best way to do this in a darkroom is what they call 'positive pressure' ventilation. Meaning that you are pushing air into the room, creating positive pressure compared to the outside. You filter the incoming air, and this keeps things clean. If you try negative pressure, pulling air out of the room, then dust and such is going to keep crawling in through cracks, etc.

    Since you will be moving, get an industrial squirrel cage fan from a place like Grangers. Build a box with filter for the intake. Either mount the box on the wall and punch through the wall, or use a hose or sheet metal tubing. There are all sorts of vents and fixtures to run such hoses through walls. Depending on how air-tight the room is, you might want to put a vent for exhaust in the door, say. Passive, shrouded to prevent light leaking in.

    Now you can yank this fan and hosing and take it along to your next place. Quick to patch in the present place if needed.

    But do get active ventilation. It can take years for allergies or lung problems to develop, and when you are young you are immune and going to live forever, but you are already on your way to a chronic condition if you don't deal with proper ventilation. There are good reasons ventilation is ALWAYS part of a darkroom. It takes a little work and a little money, but you can make a unit that will work for decades and move with oyu.
     
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  15. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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  16. Alexandra

    Alexandra Member

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    Thanks Ben!
    The site doesn't say how much that marvel costs though... Do you remember in what price range it was?
     
  17. Worker 11811

    Worker 11811 Member

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    Positive pressure ventilation: A fan blowing filtered air INTO the room.

    Fresh, clean, oxygenated air coming into the room will push dust, dirt and chemical fumes OUT.

    Wearing a mask, even if it is a full-fledged S.C.B.A., will only help you a little bit because those chemical fumes and vapors are still in the room with you. Some chemicals can be absorbed through the skin. Standing around in "polluted" air is just as bad for you whether you are wearing a respirator or not. A fan will purge the room air of any undesirable substances.

    Be sure the fan blows INTO the room. Be sure the fan has a filter to trap dust before it is introduced into the room. This way, all the dust, dirt and anything else will be blown away from the room. If the fan blows the other way, you will exchange the air in the room but it will also tend to suck dust INWARD through every crack and crevice.

    Positive pressure ventilation gives you two things: Clean lungs and clean negatives! :D
     
  18. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    The 6"" model is about £250 in the UK but I suggest you phone or email this Canadian company http://comfortagencies.com/content/t-series_darkroom.asp to enquire about price availability and delivery.
    I used to work for a heating and air conditioning engineering company, and these are what we actually installed in hospital darkrooms.

    Best wishes
    Ben.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 10, 2011
  19. jerry lebens

    jerry lebens Member

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    As somebody who had to retire from teaching because of dust inhalation problems (although not in a darkroom context), you must take care of your lungs.

    However, those Vent-Axias tend to be very expensive. As others have said, positive pressure is the best solution and an in-line fan with flexible ducting - as you get on clothes dryers - may be the answer, if you can't fit anything permanent. But, if you can't do that and you have a window, then you could at least create some kind of ventilation by building a light trap with, say, plywood.

    You shouldn't really be creating much dust when you mix up powdered chemistry. Using small amounts of powder from larger containers is liable to create dust - so don't do it! Mix up large amounts of stock solution, to dilute at a later date. Cut open the sachets of powder under water in a bucket or similar. This should prevent any dust escaping.
    Better still, use liquid chemistry - it may cost more but your lungs are irreplaceable.
     
  20. Jim Noel

    Jim Noel Member

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    The window is your simple answer.
    Get a piece of 1/2-5/8" plywood slightly larger than the window. Build a frame of 2x2's which will fit in the window and screw it to the board. Paint the inside flat black.
    Get a bathroom fan. Disassemble it as far as possible and paint it flat black.
    Mount it on the board, with an appropriate sized hole, so that it will blow air in, not out.
    A simple cheese cloth filter can be used to filter out dust. The outside air you will be bringing in will likely have far less dust than the air in the garage anyway.
    Build a simple light trap over it to eliminate light entering.
    The reason for blowing air in rather tha exhausting it is this method blows dust out through all the cracks you don't realize are there.

    I hope this description is adequate. I have had a similar system in my darkroom for more than 20 years and it works beautifully.

    Jim
     
  21. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    Jerry, If care of ones lungs is so important isn't it worth spending what the proper device costs that will definitely do the job instead of spending money and effort on trying solutions to the problem that might or might not work ? .
     
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  22. jerry lebens

    jerry lebens Member

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    Absolutely, but £250 is a lot of money. I'm merely making suggestions should cost be an issue.
     
  23. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    I use a ventilation fan in my darkroom, originally designed for machine ventilation it's about 6 inches across, runs at quite a high speed and shifts all the fumes from the wet bench area. I've a baffle system to keep it light coming in. These fans aren't expensive, mine are 240v but they are made for other voltages.

    You must exhaust the fumes so negative pressure, preferable from by the wet area so fresher air is drawn into the darkroom and then across the wet area.

    I mix powder chemistry in a larger room with no need for ventilation, there shouldn't be any significant dust, a simple face mask is enough if you think it's necessary.

    Ian
     
  24. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Just thinking after a couple of beers on my walk home, the fans I'm talking about are less than £20 new from RS Components or Maplins (both in the UK), they shift enough air to keep a darkroom well ventilated. I had mine from an old ICP machine that I scrapped.

    Another option is the bathroom (toilet) extraction fans, they are commonly available and cheap.

    Ian
     
  25. john_s

    john_s Subscriber

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    I use a computer fan exhausting to the outside through a simple light trap. It's not a huge airflow but it's enough to keep the smells down. It's also gentle enough to not cause much dust movement.

    (I do choose chemicals that smell less than acetic acid stop bath and most fixers which smell of SO2 or ammonia.)
     
  26. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    The fans I'm using are similar just a little more powerful, the range begins with the smaller computer fans.

    Ian