Low toxicity, Eco-friendly B&W processing

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by Tony-S, Sep 5, 2011.

  1. Tony-S

    Tony-S Member

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    My wife will be teaching a B&W component in a high school art class this year and I was wondering if there is a good workflow for darkrooms that don't have an active ventilation system. As you know, with schools safety trumps all else. In another thread XTOL was mentioned as a low toxicity film developer. Water works for stop bath. But what about fixers, other stop baths and paper developers?
     
  2. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    I'm not affiliated with these guys in any way, shape, or form, but I think the chemicals linked below might be the least toxic ones available. I know it's something they pride themselves on.
    Not sure about the results, but have no reason to distrust that they could be used very successfully.

    http://www.digitaltruth.com/products/ecopro.php
     
  3. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    I think that the toxicity of photographic processing solutions is highly overstated by many reporters.

    PE
     
  4. Tony-S

    Tony-S Member

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    Alright, thanks for that. It doesn't say much about ventilation but at least it's a start. I'll download the MSDSs and give them a look-over.

    I agree but unfortunately, when you're dealing with minors you have to work hard to convince the administrators that it's a safe working environment. My high school's darkroom only had HVAC for ventilation, I turned out alright. Well, mostly alright.
     
  5. Gerald C Koch

    Gerald C Koch Member

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    My choices would be Xtol, a citric acid stop, and a plain hypo fixer (sodium thiosulfate and sodium sulfite) which is almost odorless. Citric acid, sodium thiosulfate, and sodium sulfite can be considered non-toxic. There are a few ascorbate based print developers which could also be used.
     
  6. Worker 11811

    Worker 11811 Member

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    If the teacher handles all the mixing of stock solutions there should be few problems with safety.

    The only stock solution that needs to be mixed to working dilution should be the developer. In most cases, it's 1:1 developer plus water. A high school student should be able to do that safely. If he can't he doesn't belong in photography. Everything else, stop bath, fixer and hypo clearing agent is usually mixed to working dilution from the start. All the student needs to do is pour out the right amount.

    A high school student should understand the rules:
    • Follow directions and measure accurately.
    • Don't mix things that aren't supposed to be mixed.
    • Don't spill.
    • If you have an accident, wipe it up.
    • No food or drinks in the lab.
    • Wash your hands with soap and hot water before you leave the lab.
    • Report any accidents or problems to the teacher AT ONCE.

    If you feel the need to smooth things over with the administration, tell them that you require all students in the lab to wear chemical resistant, nitrile rubber gloves and safety goggles.

    Write up a list of safety rules, print them up in large text and post them on the wall of the lab. On the first day of lab, give the students a safety lecture. Tell them that you will give one warning and, if they don't obey, they are out. This kind of "laying down the law" is often what many school administrators want to hear. If you take a proactive approach they will feel better.

    XTOL is probably a good developer to use. You can tell the admins. that it is "basically made from vitamin-C." You can tell them that stop bath is "basically the same as vinegar." In either case, you're not lying. Ascorbic acid IS vitamin-C and acetic acid IS the main component of vinegar. You are just explaining things in terms that people can understand more easily.

    Provided your students operate in a safe manner, the only thing that could cause you trouble is one of the students having an allergic reaction. This is pretty rare. Millions of people have used photographic chemistry, over the years, and allergic reactions are practically unheard of. In those rare cases where it does happen, wearing gloves, goggles and aprons is usually enough to solve the problem.

    As others have said, the dangers of photographic chemistry are quite overblown. Those stories that people tell are usually second and third hand accounts of things that either didn't really happen or that happened years and years ago.

    Modern photographic chemistry is quite safe, compared to the way things were years ago. If people behave responsibly I don't think there is any real danger.
     
  7. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

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    Sprint chemistry is also supposed to be minimally toxic, and is used in schools quite a lot.
    I know that then is then, and now is now, but I learned darkroom work in my high school's darkroom with mostly no adult supervision at all. Basic precautions are good, but it isn't rocket science, or chemical warfare.
     
  8. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    I think it important to bring up the fact that we are becoming afraid of chemistry and chemicals in general. The US was once famous for its preeminence in Chemistry, but not any longer.

    Now, here is the thing... Photographic chemicals are not any more dangerous or toxic than those that I handled in HS Chemistry years ago, but today they will not let students do many HS Chemistry experiments. At RIT, students are not allowed to process their own color prints. They make exposures and hand the exposed color paper to a processing tech who does the work. So, lab skills are underdeveloped at the HS and College level both.

    Well, this is far less dangerous than generating Hydrogen gas in Chemistry class by electrolysis of water.

    To continue, several textbooks on the toxicity of chemicals have far overstated the toxic nature of many photographic chemicals and chemicals in general. The one that gets me is having EDTA classed as toxic to extremely toxic, but in reality it is used as an intravenous treatment for heavy metal poisoning to chelate the metal taken into the body and to allow it to be excreted. I just cannot see this being used intravenously if it were so toxic. In another case, Hypo is classified as toxic, but it is used orally or intravenously for Cyanide poisoning (a real poison).

    So, here we are, afraid of chemicals because someone publishes what is politically correct, ie. Chemicals are dangerons! Well, some are and some are not. Schools have beat that fear in excess into parents and into children and we are raising a generation of the chemically illiterate. We, as Analog Photographers should be in the forefront in the factual education about our hobby or profession to show that it is not the ogre that some have come to think it is.

    Recently, on a program about unemployment in the US (on NBC), they discussed the thousands of jobs going begging for lack of people to fill them. These jobs were for Chemists, Engineers, Draftsmen, Tool and Die makers, Machinists, and Programmers. The one personnel manager interviewed said he had a glut of applicants who wanted jobs but had only skills in Business Administration, Financial, or Clerical (generally very non-technical) and had no skills in Math or Science and it would be too costly to train them.

    So, as an APUG member, go out and at least try to do your bit for Science and Technology in the HS systems across the country.

    Sorry for the rant. Rant over!

    PE
     
  9. Athiril

    Athiril Subscriber

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    Looks like we don't need the LHC to find those elusive particles after all!
     
  10. Worker 11811

    Worker 11811 Member

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    Ding!!

    +1

    :cool:
     
  11. Tony-S

    Tony-S Member

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    Thanks for the detailed response; however, the principal issue is respiratory exposure, thus my emphasis on ventilation systems. I'm not concerned about mixing chemicals as spills can be cleaned up without problems.

    We have the same issues with our biology labs. It used to be we could do blood typing in labs, but because of HIV and, more importantly, hepatitis C, we cannot do that because those are biosafety level 2 agents and we don't have time to adequately train students in a general biology (or even anatomy and physiology) course such precautions.

    In that situation you're choosing the lesser of two evils. Parents don't object when you do Potentially Bad Things to little Johny when he's sick. When he's healthy, they don't want you to do anything to him. I deal with this every semester when I talk about vaccines and how they DO NOT cause autisms.

    I fight the battles for vaccines and evolution. I'll let you handle the chemistry. :smile:
     
  12. Maris

    Maris Member

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    I'm 100% with Photo Engineer on this one.

    There is a modern trend toward alarmism and an overestimation of actual hazards. I noticed this years ago when I was a consultant for Eastman Chemicals (the chemical engineering arm of Kodak). As the "hot-line" guy I would get 'phone calls about developers, stops, and fixers from spooked amateurs. In the 9 years I did this work I can't recall a single unequivocal case of photographic chemical injury to anyone anywhere anytime. In truth the people at most risk were in the professional processing labs where they actually handled stuff like glacial acetic acid. Amateurs could not (and should not) get stuff like this in bulk without an appropriate chemical handling ticket, a hazmat clearance, and a training course. The big pro labs had eye wash stations, safety showers, spill control kits, antidotes, and "disaster" procedures. I made sure they did. Home darkroom formulae were specifically made in small packages with a big safety factor in mind.

    I suspect that corporate "chemical" anxiety is driven by the concerns of accountants and lawyers who look after a company's bottom line rather than the safety of users who might sue for injury actual, imagined, or misdiagnosed.

    And don't get me started on the real chemical hazards that endanger the public: laundry bleach, toilet cleaner, dish washing detergent, drain cleaner, oven cleaner, headache tablets, and so on. Every year I'd get urgent calls from paramedics asking about toxicity and antidotes. The victims were nearly always children; tragic, tragic, tragic. As for darkroom workers, nope, not even one.
     
  13. moose10101

    moose10101 Member

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    Why not caffeinol (coffee, vitamin C, washing soda) and a water stop bath?
     
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  15. Jeff Kubach

    Jeff Kubach Member

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    I also agree with PE, unless you start drinking the stuff:blink: you're ok.

    Jeff
     
  16. Ottrdaemmerung

    Ottrdaemmerung Member

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    When I was a kid, my parents bought me for Christmas a "Tri-Lab Pak," a science lab kit so named because it covered geology (rocks/minerals), biology (microscope with slides), and chemistry (chemicals with elementary experiments). I was dismayed to find that because of the perceived danger of the chemistry portion, all the chemicals had been tossed out beforehand, leaving me with just some rocks and a crummy plastic microscope. I guess getting into film photography and darkroom thirty years later is my way of getting revenge! ;-)
     
  17. Klainmeister

    Klainmeister Member

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    Wa wa wait.....what do you do with your spent developer? I've been drinking Pyro for years!

    On a side note: being recently out of HS (6 years ago), I learned how to process my own film from my chemistry teacher and in order to appease the nanny state, he mixed the fixer under a hood and we simply used it in tanks. That was his workaroung.
     
  18. Jeff Kubach

    Jeff Kubach Member

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    ^:laugh::laugh::laugh:^

    Jeff
     
  19. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    Tony;

    I can appreciate your POV about relative harm using say, EDTA or Hypo, but they really are low in toxicity. CA has banned Thiourea as it has been found by the state to be a carcinogen, but it is present in many common wildflowers found along the road. One mile of road may contain as much Thiourea as most solvent developers or fixers or toners. Thiocyanate is banned because people think it it is a Cyanide poison. (It is but only by cooking at fusion temperatures).

    During WW2, many processes for the war industries used a new solvent called Acetonitrile. Everything was fine, but BEFORE they changed the name, it was called Methyl Cyanide and the workers refused to touch it. So, it was given a trivial name.

    Panic Rules!

    Kodak workers were as healthy and as sick as the general populace here in the US. We suffered more from stress than chemicals.

    PE
     
  20. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    I do think though that taking active steps to maximize ventilation in the darkrooms and workrooms is important - not so much because of the chemicals, but instead because of the deleterious effects in general of poor ventilation.

    No comment from me about the other benefits of good ventilation when one is dealing with small rooms filled with teenagers :smile:.
     
  21. dynachrome

    dynachrome Member

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    Maris. Thi is an old story about glacial aceitic acid. I graduated High School during the Ford administration. On the way home from my last day I stopped at the lab and and made a long term loan of a gallon bottle of glacial aceitic acid. The chemistry teacher ordered it for us earlier in the year. I had stop bath for years. The bottle was glass and very thick. I took it home on the subway and no one would have any idea what it was. If I tried that today I'd get locked up.
     
  22. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

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    A detriment of living in the big city, I guess. A couple of years ago a camera store that was closing gave me two gallon bottles of glacial acetic acid. I just loaded it my car and headed off. I gave some away, but will still have stop bath for a long time to come.

    As for the ventilation question, I would limit the time behind closed doors to maybe 1/2 hour or so, or whatever a recommended air-change interval might be. For roll film, once it's loaded, the door can be opened, so there should be little worry. For printing it should be enough time to get a few prints into the wash, depending on how many students are working at one time. Once a batch of prints are in the wash the darkroom could stay open until they come out for drying, then start the process again.
    This is more or less the way I work in my home darkroom, which isn't currently ventilated.
     
  23. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    If you had dropped and broken it back they you would have been locked up too! :D

    PE
     
  24. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    exactly ...
    and some sprint fixer ...
     
  25. Athiril

    Athiril Subscriber

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    Teens? Try adults, unfortunately there's just no educating some of them.
    [video=youtube;JDluG324sh8]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JDluG324sh8[/video]
     
  26. Gerald C Koch

    Gerald C Koch Member

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    A solution of sodium thiosulfate has long been used as a topical treatment for certain skin conditions including acne. In fact some doctors would recommend Kodak fixer as an easily obtainable remedy for tinea versicolor.