Darkroom ventilation, the straight dope answer?!

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by codejoy, Aug 19, 2008.

  1. codejoy

    codejoy Member

    Messages:
    40
    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2008
    Location:
    Las Cruces,
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    It seems that there are a TON of opinions on darkroom chemicals, ventilation required etc. A lot of posts on photo.net have people saying the chemicals arent that bad. Some say it causes nervous system damage. I am lost. I just got some darkroom equipment and built me a bathroom darkroom. DId a first print, didnt notice horrid oders (using kodafix, kodak indicator stop and dektol). Thats it, just a B&W darkroom not even using any toner stuff.

    Now my bathroom is probably about 12 feet long. and about 4 feet wide. Its longer cause there is a door 3/4 way through that goes to the toilet itself, where the fan is. Opposite side is the tub, where i put my stop and fix trays (developer on counter top near enlarger under safe light). It is a bathroom that is ventilated with the bathroom fan, and air ducts in both toilet area and main shower/sink area that is where AC and heat come through. Is this adequate? Or should i think about another fan? Like I said i didnt notice any oders, but I emailed my photo I teacher I had last semester how I built a darkroom his response was "cool etc etc make sure its ventilated u don't want brain cancer", so I emailed my cousin whose a photographer and said I couldn't figure out if the teacher (whose always a kidder) was being serious or fictitious, and he responds with a "serious". LOL so now I am figuring out if what I have is adequate or if I want to attach a lightproof fan to the one small (currently closed and covered) window in the bathroom.

    Thanks for any responses... oh and this is also a nice intro, i'm new here :smile:

    Regards,
    Shane
     
  2. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

    Messages:
    15,235
    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2005
    Location:
    BC, Canada
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Shane:

    Welcome to APUG. I think you will find this forum to be "a breath of fresh air" :smile:.

    Good ventilation means a comfortable working environment. The chemistry you are currently using is not particularly strong or hazardous (most household cleaning products are probably worse) so your focus should be on having enough ventilation to keep your room comfortable.

    If you find the darkroom gets overly humid, warm or "stuffy", then another fan would be a good idea.

    There are some photographic chemicals that are more hazardous. Some of the toners come to mind. Most of them are usable in the light, so it is probably not a good idea to use them in the darkroom anyways.

    Here is a link to a page on the Ilford website that discusses ventilation:

    http://www.ilfordphoto.com/applications/page.asp?n=43

    You may want to wander through that site because there is a lot of good information there.

    Here is a link to a useful Kodak publication as well:

    http://www.kodak.com/global/en/professional/support/techPubs/ak3/ak3.pdf

    There are a lot of useful links in that "/techPubs/" directory.

    Hope this helps.

    Matt
     
  3. David William White

    David William White Member

    Messages:
    1,179
    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2007
    Location:
    Hamilton, Ca
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I need to say first that you should follow the directions on the packaging.

    Beyond that, commerically available paper developers and fixers require no special ventilation; they are not known or suspected carcinogens, and are only toxic if ingested in excessive quantities. So don't do that. If you do a lot of printing and you keep an open try of fixer going, visitors may ask where your cat is.
     
  4. codejoy

    codejoy Member

    Messages:
    40
    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2008
    Location:
    Las Cruces,
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    LOL @ the cat comment. Thanks for the info...I sorta did think it would be okay, but I am no chemist...so figured I should ask. I am really good at following directions too thank god for that :smile:. Just don't know if they print those warnings as if u were in a optimal environment. (i.e. its all safe if u do this and that if your in a REAL darkroom lol )
     
  5. nsurit

    nsurit Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,426
    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2005
    Location:
    Texas Hill C
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Here is a supplier of thinks for a darkroom. Might be worth a look. I'm buying a vent hood from him and have, at his suggestion purchased a vent fan and some light tight ventilation louvers. Bill Barber


    http://www.eepjon.com/
     
  6. Neal

    Neal Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,564
    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2004
    Location:
    Chicago, Wes
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    Dear Shane,

    Try to find a place outside the living area for toning. I use the garage.

    Neal Wydra
     
  7. pentaxuser

    pentaxuser Subscriber

    Messages:
    7,928
    Joined:
    May 9, 2005
    Location:
    Daventry, No
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I'd be tempted to ask him where he got his info on contracting brain cancer. Sounds like a wind-up to me. Anyone who was serious about this risk would have expanded on the statement. Ari has a post on bicycles. He wants to get fit etc. As a throwaway line, the one sent to you sounds a little like one of us saying to Ari that he might of course drop dead if he peddles too hard too soon or "be very careful not to exceed X revolutions per minute or terrible things will happen"

    I also do straight B&W in my darkroom(converted bedroom). No toners, no exotic chems etc and no ill effects I am aware of. At the end of the evening session I open the door, move 6-8 feet into the bedroom where I sleep and nothing follows me in terms of noxious fumes.

    I am of course always "dogged" by the evening's bad prints which follow me even into my dreams! After a bad session I do come into contact with noxious liquids. My poison's white lightning from Speyside in Scotland. What's yours?

    Seriously, keep a sense of proportion about ordinary B&W chems and keep printing.

    pentaxuser
     
  8. codejoy

    codejoy Member

    Messages:
    40
    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2008
    Location:
    Las Cruces,
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    heh thanks, funny synopsis. I think he was just going dramatic by "brain cancer" trying to enlighten that if it was in a super cramped closet with no air removal for hours on end, it wouldn't probably leave me feeling so well...
     
  9. Aurum

    Aurum Member

    Messages:
    923
    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2008
    Location:
    Landrover Ce
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    All you need is what the chemical industry calls GLP (Good Lab Practice) or if you're doing a ton of prints GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) :D

    Basically as mentioned above, don't throw the stuff around like air freshener, don't swallow it (And don't eat your sandwiches in there, or handle food with contaminated hands), and if you've got sensitive skin handle your prints with tongs or wear cheap disposable rubber gloves.

    Actually the tongs and or gloves are a good idea anyway if you don't want the smell of the solutions on your skin, as it does linger a bit even after washing off
     
  10. TheDreadPirateRobins

    TheDreadPirateRobins Member

    Messages:
    168
    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2008
    Shooter:
    35mm
    When in doubt, I request MSDS sheets from the manufacturer or supplier and I increase ventilation. The MSDS sheets, in the U.S. anyway, are required to list the potential risks. Just for comparison, if you request MSDS sheets for your darkroom chemicals get some for some of your household cleaners and such, too. Some of those are way nastier than these darkroom chemicals.
     
  11. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

    Messages:
    2,725
    Joined:
    May 18, 2005
    Location:
    Woonsocket,
    Shooter:
    35mm
    One problem with MSDSes is that they vary quite a bit in how alarmist they are, depending on who wrote them. Try doing a Web search on "MSDS water." When I did this a couple of years ago, I found some short and reasonable MSDSes, but I also found others that made water sound almost as dangerous as molten plutonium. If you don't already know the dangers of a substance, that variability can make it hard to interpret the true danger level from an MSDS.
     
  12. Phillip P. Dimor

    Phillip P. Dimor Member

    Messages:
    1,063
    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2004
    Location:
    Westport, MA
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    I agree with Matt. There are few darkroom chemicals which require serious ventilation. When you are spending 2-5 hours if not more in a small space, you're going to want a good comfortable working environment. Ventilation helps _a lot_ in this aspect. OTOH, i've only worked in one darkroom with good ventilation. I've had three darkrooms, one a small bathroom (5x4 feet, I sat on the toilet to print. The trays sat in the tub) was not comfortable.. I printed very little like that.

    The best was without ventilation but spanned two large rooms, had comfort mats on the floor, music, a lot of safelights..

    You can develop a sensitivity to metol (found in dektol) and other chemicals, particularly by dunking your hands in the stuff repeatedly over time.
    My photography teacher who had been teaching darkroom skills for 15+ years had this.. her hands were dry, chapped, red.. to the point that her skin was extremely scaley. She would get headaches and feel tired after a short while of working in there.. I worked with a guy in a lab, he'd get a little bit of the C41 1st developer on his skin and break out in rashes.. This was after years (15+ again) of not even washing his hands after he got the stuff on him.

    I guess what i'm trying to say is that since it's your first darkroom, or first darkroom in a bathroom.. I personally wouldn't worry so much about it..
    Long winded, huh? Jeesh. If you're going to sepia tone, or even selenium tone stuff.. do it outside. Or in a room with better air exchange.
    When you can build a darkroom, or move into one and change things.. ventilation is a nice thing.
     
  13. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser

    Messages:
    19,119
    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2003
    Location:
    local
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    thank you!
     
  14. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

    Messages:
    2,725
    Joined:
    May 18, 2005
    Location:
    Woonsocket,
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Note that in many cases it's possible to choose less toxic chemicals. For instance, if you're not too passionate about particular B&W developers, it's easy to use PC (phenidone/ascorbate) developers rather than MQ (metol/hydroquinone) developers. This will help you avoid sensitization such as what Phillip describes. (Phenidone and sodium ascorbate and their variants are less likely to produce reactions than metol.) This isn't always practical, though. Toners are generally pretty nasty things, and color chemistry is pretty specific; AFAIK, there's little variability in them from one brand to another.
     
  15. Richard Jepsen

    Richard Jepsen Member

    Messages:
    683
    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2006
    Location:
    Oklahoma, US
    Shooter:
    Med. Format RF
    I have struggled with this question. At home I have an unvented DR in the laundry room, 5 ft by 11 ft. I found using stop bath and an acid fixer sometimes resulted in upper respiratory irritation. Now I use a water stop bath and TF-4. Suggest you use a phenidone paper developer and tongs. Smaller tray sizes reduce surface area and odors. My DR practice eliminates my symptoms. However, individuals react differently to chemical exposure which is cumlative over a lifetime. Since you have a typical bathroom vent, my opinion is you are safe, especially if using a similar DR practice. Tips: Avoid toning in a restricted area. Cover larger developer trays to minimize fumes. Walk out of the DR every 6 or 7 min.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 20, 2008
  16. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

    Messages:
    2,725
    Joined:
    May 18, 2005
    Location:
    Woonsocket,
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Some additional pointers on my and Richard's suggestions to use PC developers: For film, Kodak XTOL is the best-known commercial PC developer. For paper, Agfa (now A&O) Neutol Plus (but not others in the Neutol family) and the Silvergrain Tektol developers are PC products. There are numerous mix-it-yourself PC developers for both film and paper, but for somebody who's just starting out, it'll simplify things to start with commercial products. If you've got the interest, try mix-it-yourself developers later.

    PQ developers are more common than PC developers. They'll help you avoid metol sensitization, but hydroquinone is worse for the environment than ascorbate, so I personally prefer to use PC developers.
     
  17. Richard Jepsen

    Richard Jepsen Member

    Messages:
    683
    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2006
    Location:
    Oklahoma, US
    Shooter:
    Med. Format RF
    I might add using a water stop and TF-4 limits exposure to the paper developer. Water stop and TF-4 avoids slight sulphuric acid exposure from used acid fix. I normally print 5x7's minimizing tray surface area reducing the potential for fumes. You can cover the 5x7 tray with a 8x10 tray when developing to further reduced exposure. For additional exposure reductions develop paper in a unicolor drum. My DR practice solved my issues and I am reasonably confident of adequate exposure safety. It helps that I leave the room after each exposure to transport a print to a hold bath outside of the DR. Typical B&W commercial chemicals are similar to household chemicals in toxicity.
     
  18. tomasis

    tomasis Member

    Messages:
    30
    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2007
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    very good topic

    I started develop prints with Ilford paper developer, Kodak max stop and Ilford Fixer. I had headaches from chemicals in bad ventiliated room. I changed Kodak max stop to odorless Tetenal stop bath (citron acid). It became much better and I'm planing to replace fixer with Tetenal one odourless. It would be interesting to try other and save Ilford fixer for eventual Nova "machine" (bought a lot of Ilford fixer so it'd be pity to waste due odour).

    How about other odorless fixers except Tetenal? I saw other kind in Freestyle and forgot what it calls. It seems that tetenal is only one in Europe as odourless version of fixer?

    So Agfa Neutol plus and Silver are only PC developers?