Hydroquinone toxic in Canada?

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by m. dowdall, Jan 31, 2008.

  1. m. dowdall

    m. dowdall Member

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    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 31, 2008
  2. Mike Wilde

    Mike Wilde Member

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    Whoa nellie - I'm a worried now

    While I mix my own chems, and likely have a kg or so of HQ at home, I would not dream of rubbing it on my skin. In its dry form it is an extremely fimely divided jumble of needle like strands. When I weigh it I have the full face mask filter on, and the scale is placed in front of the exhaust intake at the end of my sink. I put a board over the end of the sink where the fixer tray usually lives.

    I suppose I am exposed to it when I pull paper from the developer tray when the tongs just wont grab it properly.

    The most HQ that I use at a time is when I am using d-85 like high contrast lith developers. - they swallow a LOT of HQ in comparison to traditional grey scale developer. In that case I keep my fingers out of the tray due to the caustic alkali though.

    If we are in a situation of the HQ being overly regulated, then we perhaps we will be reduced to smuggling in a few grams of phenidone from some third world producer, and mixing it with Vitamin C from the health food store, and Borax from the laundry detergent aisle at the grocery store.

    Thats what I am going to do to demonstrate traditional photography to my son's Boy Scout troop next month. I complied all the MSDS data sheets, and emailed them to the troop commissioner. They are more worried with the splash hazard from the Ilford rapid fixer. The developer, when you cook it up with mostly things that they already can identify with from having it around the house, didn't worry them at all, and the phenidone is needed in such vanishingly small amounts, that it is not percieved as a risk.

    I will be shooting portraits of the kids with my 4x5 loaded with old ortho lith film. I have. It takes a full dump of 2400w/s into 2 heads at 6' to get the needed amount of light, for this equivalent to 3asa film. The kids will then process their own piece of film in a tray on the blacked out and lit by red safelight stage at the end of the gym where they meet.
     
  3. PHOTOTONE

    PHOTOTONE Member

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    Almost every conventional paper and film developer has some Hydroquinone in it. It would be a very sad fact if those developers were prohibited. These include developers such as D-76, ID-11, Dektol, etc. Hydroquinone is one of the absolutely basic building blocks of modern developer design. I have been mixing (from powder) and using developers with Hydroquinone for over 40 years, and I have yet to grow another arm, or have any appendage of mine fall off.
     
  4. DaveOttawa

    DaveOttawa Member

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    Noticed this comment at one of the links:

    "Canadians may also be exposed to hydroquinone through handling photo developer chemicals for processing black-and-white film. Since the increased popularity of digital photography is rapidly replacing film photography, this type of exposure would be expected to continually decrease over time."

    HQ does seem to have some toxicity but reading the links they confirm that the route of entry to the human body for photographic use is via the skin. Conclusion: don't put your fingers in developer, or wear gloves.

    If you plan on handling the dry powder you are probably going to breath in significant amounts unless you are using a facility with more advanced ventilation/extraction than is normally used for a darkroom.
     
  5. Tom Hoskinson

    Tom Hoskinson Member

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    Also, don't breathe tobacco smoke and wood smoke. Catechol and Hydroquinone are present in both.

    Human urine is also a Source of Catechol and Hydroquinone.
     
  6. sthurlow

    sthurlow Member

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    Good Afternoon - Thanks to Mike Dowdall for posting this to this group.

    Part of ensuring that the message of the "hobbyist" community is heard is to ensure that the Government receives as many submissions as possible. Submissions on both the Risk Assessment and the Risk Management document can be submitted electronically until March 18th, 2008. Anyone can submit a comment- even if they are not from Canada.

    I have reattached links to both documents -

    http://www.ec.gc.ca/substances/ese/eng/challenge/batch1/batch1_123-31-9_rmscopes.cfm

    http://www.ec.gc.ca/substances/ese/eng/challenge/batch1/batch1_123-31-9.cfm

    There are numerous areas where your expertise can be useful - but the most important aspect is how the regulation of HQ will affect you and your hobby. It is also important to note that the the use of HQ as part of the developping process misunderstands how unlikely it is to come into contact with Human skin for a period of time that would lead to skin absorption.

    I thank you in advance for all of your help on this issue!
     
  7. Mike Wilde

    Mike Wilde Member

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    My offical note to EC

    From a photography web site I note that your organisation is reviewing the classification for Hydroquinone.



    (ie as found in documents Risk Management Scope for 1,4-Benzenediol (Hydroquinone)Chemical Abstract Service (CAS)Registry Number:123-31-9 )



    The exposure limits for dermal contact to me seemed to presume that a photo hobbyist would immerse their hands in a solution containing HQ. This is not a very standard practice.

    The concentration of the HQ in such solutions also seems to be mis-represented.



    HQ is frequently one of the developing agents of choice found in film developers, and in print developers.



    Most photographers do not allow their skin in contact with film developer.

    While it is possible to develop sheet film (4x5”, 8x10” etc.) in a tray, and handle it with your fingers, it is a more common practice to develop sheet film in a deep tank and handle the film via hangers the film is suspended from.



    The much more common roll film formats (35mm, 120 format, etc) is commonly processed by rolling the film on a reel, placing the reel in a light tight trapped tank, and pouring the solutions in and out while the lights are on. Occasionally some drops of solution may contact the skin while solutions are being poured in and out of the tank. .



    B&W Print developer is more common form in which one might contact HQ. A typical print developer stock solution contains about 12g of HQ, and it is typically diluted at a rate of 1:1 to 1:3 with water. The prints are typically moved from tray to tray by using tongs. When multiple prints are stuck together in a tray, tongs may not have the grip to separate them, and an un-gloved pair of fingers may be needed to separate the sheets.



    The reason most photographers keep clear of the wet developer solutions is that they are typically rather alkaline, and therefore a skin irritant irrespective of the presence of any developing agents.



    The developer solution with the highest concentration of HQ that I use uses 22g/L, and is used to process lithographic films. It is also quite alkaline, achieved by the use of sodium hydroxide as the alkaline agent. It is not what one wishes to soak you hands in, as though you are being intoned to do so by ‘Madge the manicurist’.



    For an insight into hydroquinone as present in photographic developer solutions, I would recommend ‘the darkroom cookbook’ by anschell and troop.



    Please advise me of any additional information that you may require. I would be interested in getting notices of how the review of this chemical is progressing.

    Mike Wilde
     
  8. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I think you ought to have specified that that is 12g per liter of stock solution, so that the final concentration in the user solution is 3 to 6g per liter.
     
  9. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    Good Ol' Canada: start worrying when the problem is vanishing...
     
  10. m. dowdall

    m. dowdall Member

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    ???
     
  11. BradS

    BradS Subscriber

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    Hmmm, so...I guess I should really buy a set of print tongs then? Is it really so dangerous to move prints with bare fingers? Am I jeopardizing my health?
     
  12. Jim Noel

    Jim Noel Member

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    Let's hope the U.S. is too ionvolved with staying out of recession to follow this path.

    I first put my hands in MQ developer about 1937/ Still no effects that are obvious to me or my doctors.

    For you youngsters out there, MQ developer was sold in a double ended glass tube. It contained metol and hydroquinone.
     
  13. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

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    I've seen quite a few answers to this question. The most often-cited health risk is of an allergic reaction to metol (or to contaminants that are common in metol -- I've seen conflicting claims and counter-claims on that score). Hydroquinone is also, as this thread shows, not without risks, but my impression is that the risk is low for a typical low-volume home darkroom user. OTOH, I'm not a chemist or health professional, so you should really listen to what such people say rather than to what I say.

    If you're concerned about the health risks of dunking your fingers in hydroquinone-based developers, you can wear gloves and/or switch to a developer that doesn't contain hydroquinone. Agfa Neutol Plus (note the "Plus;" other products in the Neutol line are completely different) and the Silvergrain Tektol line are two hydroquinone-free print developers; both are PC (phenidone/ascorbate) developers. (I've no idea why Freestyle lists Neutol Plus as an ORMD item; AFAIK, it's pretty mild stuff.)

    There are also lots of mix-it-yourself PC developers you can try, if you prefer to go that route. Formulas such as DS-14 (a mix-it-yourself predecessor to Tektol) were designed from the ground up as PC developers. As a general rule, it's also possible to substitute phenidone for metol (use 1/10 as much phenidone as metol) and sodium ascorbate for hydroquinone (I don't recall the substitution ratio offhand) in MQ formulas. Results might not be identical to what the original MQ formula would produce, but they'll be similar.
     
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  15. paxette

    paxette Member

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    Hydroquinone is used as a skin lightener. There is evidence to suggest it's carcinogenic (but hasn't been proved in humans), cause a condition known as Ochronosis where your skin darkens and thickens or, you could permanently damage the melanosome (what gives you skin its colour) permanently causing white areas.

    From what I've read on skin bleaching bearberry, cranberry and products that contain arbutin also produce hydroquinone in the body. Which leads me to wonder if this has more to do with the cosmetics industry and a tightening up of regulations (apparently some dematologists still use hydroquinone based creams) rather than an outright ban.
     
  16. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    I.e.:

    Now that film is not the dominant medium of photography anymore, the amount of hydroquinone used to develop film across the world is falling. Why is Canada worrying about HQ now instead of having worried about it twenty years ago when everything pictorial was run on silver photography? It seems to me like yet another instance of our slow-to-the-party-but-well-intentioned-anyway attitude.
     
  17. notmatt

    notmatt Member

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    It's not just hydroquinone under examination, but whole classes of chemicals that entered widespread use without any evaluation of their effects on human health. In other words, they're not worried about hydroquinone in particular, it's just on the list.

    In any case, it seems unlikely that it'll be listed for elimination; the requirements for that are quite high. You can see the CEPA 1999 bill here, and the requirements for elimination are in 77(4), as follows:

    The draft report already notes that hydroquinone isn't bioaccumulative, and that human activity isn't responsible for the release of any significant amount of HQ to the environment.

    I think the worst we can expect is some increased handling and reporting requirements for industrial use (they're already subject to this, so it'd be a change in degree, not in character), and for consumers and hobbyists, some extra warning labels, and at worst, a restriction on dumping to untreated sewage systems.

    i.e. don't panic.
     
  18. Sparky

    Sparky Member

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    it's an off-the-shelf drug taken in darker-skinned cultures - consumed, apparently, in massive quantities - with no ill effects... about the same as vitamin-C, it would seem. if that. I liked the response that this old bavarian guy who ran a photo shop in my home town in canada (who sold me my first linhof, when I was 22) had to say on the issue; "what's the big deal...? it's only soda water...!" (we were talking about fixer)
     
  19. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    If you write it in big, friendly letters, I promise I won't! :wink:
     
  20. BradS

    BradS Subscriber

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    According to the MSDS, a relatively small dose (29g/Kg) of Hydroquinoe taken orally has caused death in at least one human.
     
  21. PhotoJim

    PhotoJim Member

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    That's not a small dose. I'd need to eat about 3 kg (6 1/2 pounds) of hydroquinone to equal that dose. I can't eat a steak that big.
     
  22. BradS

    BradS Subscriber

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    Hmmm, yeah. Good point. It just looks small. I'd have to eat 2.3 Kg...LOL! :surprised:

    OK. calm is restored. But, I think I need some print tongs just the same...it's is a hassle trying to wash and dry my hands between each print.
     
  23. Sparky

    Sparky Member

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  24. Sparky

    Sparky Member

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  25. nworth

    nworth Subscriber

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    NIOSH did extensive toxicology studies on hydroquinone in the early 1970s, and they published an excellent report. It concluded that although there was some long and short term toxicity, that it was not significant for the usual uses, of which photography was most significant. In any case, the long use of hydroquinone in photography without any epidemiological evidence of adverse affects should argue well for its continued use.
     
  26. m. dowdall

    m. dowdall Member

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