What is the proper respirator for darkroom use?

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by matthew001, Sep 1, 2012.

  1. matthew001

    matthew001 Member

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    I had a terrible reaction to chemicals a few months ago (12+hours/day for a solid week) with ventilation. To prevent that again I want to purchase a respirator with the proper filters. Any suggestions? I was looking at 3M's masks but I'm not sure what filters are the best for this.
     
  2. winger

    winger Subscriber

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    It would help to know what kind of reaction and what chemicals. 3M masks are good, but each is designed for different types of chemicals. If you email them with the chemical, they may be able to help you. Grainger also has a help group that can help pick a filter, but only 9-5 on weekdays, I think.
     
  3. Bob-D659

    Bob-D659 Member

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    Without knowing which chemicals you were using and more importantly, which caused the reaction, it's not easy to pick the right defense.

    For example, acetic acid vapours are excellent respiratory irritants, but that can be remedied by switching to a different stop bath.
     
  4. matthew001

    matthew001 Member

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    Respitory Irritation and severe nausea. I was using standard Sprint developer and fixer.
     
  5. matthew001

    matthew001 Member

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    I will be using the following chemicals as I am getting into non-silver printing:
    Ferric Ammonium Citrate
    Tartaric Acid
    Silver Nitrate
    Sodium Thiosulfate
    Citric Acid
    Gold Chloride
    Ilford ID-11 Dev.
    Ilford Rapid Fixer
     
  6. Ian C

    Ian C Member

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  7. Vaughn

    Vaughn Member

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    A side issue, but really the main issue -- sounds like your ventilation is not very good. It is not a matter of how much air one is passing through the system, but where your head is in relation to the flow of the air. If the fumes from the trays pass by one's head on their way out of the room, then it is like having no ventilation at all.

    A fume hood can be a simple thing to set-up for mixing chemistry, or when using a particularly nasty chemical -- a few sticks of wood and plastic to form a box with an open side to work from, and the air sucked out the back and to the outside. I set up something like this when using acetone.

    Another source of nasty chemicals with alt processes is blow-drying coated paper. I now have asthma from blow-drying platinum/palladium paper. It took 5 years for it to show up...not too bad, but I have it. Blow-drying the coated paper kicked the platinum dust into the air and into my lungs. I started to wear a simple dust mask and stopped the immediate effects, but still put the platinum dust into my working environment. I now just air dry the coated paper (tacked to a wall with a gentle fan blowing on the paper for a couple hours (High RH) -- and even feel that I am getting better and more consistant prints this way..

    But good luck with your printing and your health.
     
  8. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    You don't need a respirator but you do need good ventilation and a good extractor fan preferably close to the wet side of the darkroom.

    In the past I've had to use an air-line respirator but then we were spraying emulsions and chemistry but that's grosss overkill as is a respirator for normal uses.

    Ian
     
  9. matthew001

    matthew001 Member

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  10. matthew001

    matthew001 Member

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    It is a college setting - I cannot modify the ventilation in the room, nor can my professor. I don't mind overkill.
     
  11. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    If that's the case the college is almost certainly breaking the law.

    Ian
     
  12. matthew001

    matthew001 Member

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    Apparently the ventilation is really good but my symptoms after processing so many prints say otherwise. I was processing on the other side of the room (vents are by the sink) I dev and fix at the counter (6 feet from the array of vent hoods). As another posted above - this will cause the fumes to go right past my head. If this is the case, I'm still interested in a mask.
     
  13. Bob-D659

    Bob-D659 Member

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    Well the sink area is for the wet processing, so move to the sink where the extractor fans are.
     
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  15. matthew001

    matthew001 Member

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    Ok. Will do. If I still want a respirator, which filter?
     
  16. matthew001

    matthew001 Member

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    http://sprintsystems.com/msds2011/MSDS_FIX_2010.pdf indicates a respirator should be used if there is a sensitivity. I just don't know which of 3M's filters is sufficient.
     
  17. Herzeleid

    Herzeleid Member

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    I have allergies, to lots of things and they cause allergic asthma. I don't use a special ventilation or respiratory mask, I only use dust mask when mixing chemicals. I said this so you know I have sensitivity and which chemicals irritate the most for me. But I had no problems in the dark room ever. You should see a doctor, in my opinion. You should check if you are suffering from allergies, or other respiratory problems.

    Anyway, be careful with the Ferric amonium citrate and tartaric acid in powder form. Even though I like the smell of tartaric acid, those powders are very fine (I hope that is the right term) and 'citrate' as you can imagine irritates the most. It is like sniffing black pepper, sneezing and mildly uncomfortable in the nose. Citric acid I used was in crystal form, I guess yours might be same. If that is in powder form be careful about that too. Not that any of these chemicals are very harmful but as I said my allergies are triggered if I am not careful with these, so I guess these are mildly irritant. When preparing ID-11 use a mask when mixing the powder, it is also very fine powder and I feel uncomfortable when I prepare that. I had no problems with any of the chemicals in your list. Don't forget to respect the silver nitrate :smile:

    But I believe after you mix the chemicals into solutions they won't be too much trouble. You will use plain hypo (I gather you are going to do VanDyke), and it is not as irritant as the rapid fixers containing extra sulfates and acid. Sodium bisulfate and metabisulfate really irritated me when I used it for other chemical preparations. They smell nasty and they gave a slight burning sensation in the nose.

    And warning for the future, considering that you are sensitive to chemicals, be very very careful with bichromates/dichromates they are the most harmful chemicals in powder form, relatively safe in solutions. I have severe allergies to chrome, but I can mix and use it safely. No problems so far (no dermatitis). Not to mention I use gloves and mask.

    I hope it all goes well.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 1, 2012
  18. matthew001

    matthew001 Member

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    Thanks. Yes, I didn't go to the doctor, but I should have. The exposure to the chemicals left me completely debilitated for a week or so, severe nausea for about 4 days, and a really nasty sore throat for about a month. I was printing with very large trays (large prints) which, I assume, would give off more vapor than a smaller tray. I would feel more comfortable to wear a respirator at least when processing film (in trays). I don't think I will be comfortable again without one (Nosemaphobia).
     
  19. Maris

    Maris Member

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    A respirator is not the answer, it's asking for trouble.

    I used to be a research chemist and toxicologist until I went commercial. Here are a couple of old incidents from my time as the hot-line guy for Eastman Chemicals:

    A darkroom worker complains of headaches, dizziness, and general malaise while working in a well ventilated darkroom. He blames the "fumes" from the "chemicals".
    When I check his work space I find that the guy is doing 5 hour darkroom sessions while wearing a double cartridge (dust and vapour) face mask. He's got a deep fear of chemicals but what's getting him is ordinary anoxia and re-breathed carbon dioxide because he's not ventilating adequately.

    An urgent call comes through from someone with metol allergy. The stuff is literally eating his hands even though he is wearing surgical gloves. It turns out that the victim has latex allergy from the gloves and the metol is innocent. But the story has spread to every darkroom in town and it takes ages to hose it all down.

    Sometimes fear of chemicals can lead people into danger. Sometimes chemical sensitivity is so extreme that only an actively inflated positive pressure biohazard suit is mandatory . Any darkroom design, any chemical process, that requires respirators and gloves for worker survival is absolutely not worth going into at any price. There is an unbreakable principle of workplace safety at stake here.
     
  20. winger

    winger Subscriber

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    I second Maris's comments about the filter causing problems as well. Where I used to work, they made us wear respirators when making slide preps of hairs using a toluene based media. Despite having it professionally fitted, I had problems breathing with it. I have asthma and I've heard this is common with masks.
    If you insist on using one, one of the ones covering acids is a better bet than the one for organics you linked, imo. If you mixed anything from a powder that day, that is likely the cause as well. Powders are much more easily inhaled in quantities that will cause problems (the main reason I use things that come as liquids). A particulate filter should be fine for that. You also need to be careful to make sure you don't get a cloud of powder flying up when you dump it into the container.
    If you do your tray work by time rather than by watching (better for consistency), you only need to be an arm's length from them to agitate the tray. Standing over them won't be good for the lungs or the back.
     
  21. SkipA

    SkipA Member

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    There are schools that still have darkrooms?
     
  22. matthew001

    matthew001 Member

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    Yes, our darkrooms are huge. We have a main darkroom (for intro students) and two separate advanced darkrooms, one for non-silver work and the other for traditional silver printing.
     
  23. matthew001

    matthew001 Member

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    Thank you for your comments. I would still prefer a respirator because I will be mixing powders soon anyway. I have no problems with respirators. I used them for several years welding. Never a problem with breathing. They saved my lungs though. So, the filters that cover acids would be more beneficial that the multi-gas one? I do no know how to figure out which filter covers what.
     
  24. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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  25. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    I would agree with Maris, as people often get these hazards out of proportion. I sometimes wear gloves, depending on what chemicals I’m working with; it’s just a matter of common sense practice. Yesterday I made up 3.8 litres of D76 and as it wasn’t raining I did this outside. That method gives you good ventilation.
     
  26. Neal

    Neal Subscriber

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    Dear Matthew,

    Home center stores carry respirators with replaceable filters for $30-$40. Choose the charcoal filters (they are more expensive but worth it). I picked up mine at Menards, but I'm sure they all have them. Paint supply stores should have them as well.

    Feel better,

    Neal Wydra