What is the safest film developer / fixer combo available

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by Aurum, Sep 22, 2010.

  1. Aurum

    Aurum Member

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    The youngests (he's 9) school is starting a photo club, which is going to be run by the head master.
    Now most of the kids will be using digitals, as well, they are kids, and that is what they can lay their hands on, and I'm not going to have a downer on getting kids behind a camera of whatever type.
    However, as we're not exactly digi-orientated in this household, we did ask about encouraging a bit of film development as well (As you do)
    Now to his credit the head liked the idea, and once it was explained that developing film doesn't need a full on darkroom, just a dev tank and a changing bag, he was more convinced, however, in true 'elf and safety tradition, any mention of liquid chemicals has to be checked with the council who also in traditional knee jerk response forbade it "Ooooh Chemicals"
    Now as a chemist this is a red rag to a bull, but being aware of the potential sensitisation issues of stuff like hydroquinone or metol I would like suggestions on what could be considered the most safe developer / fixer combo that anyone can think of. I was thinking along the lines of something like Xtol for a developer but I'm tempered by the reports of it sometimes going off without warning. Caffinol could be another idea I suppose, but for this might be a little hit and miss for this application

    As a compromise I've offered to develop any black and white film they shoot using my kit, then scanning so they can get prints in school (No chemicals in school -yet- remember), and C41 can be done by the friendly photolab up the road, so all is not lost, but any suggestions about uber safe chems would be appreciated. If they can also double up for paper use even better, as I have a pack of Ilford positive paper, a needle, and a biscuit tin that could be used for a bit of a wow factor as well :whistling:
     
  2. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    hit or miss with caffenol .. works every time for me :smile:
    you just have to use the worst instant coffee you can find ...
    if you have a brand called " el gringo" where you are
    it works great ! ( i used it when i processed film in france ) .
     
  3. tiberiustibz

    tiberiustibz Member

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    Monobath. There's nothing to screw up, besides temperature. Last I saw on New55 was that they found a monobath with off the shelf chemistry, so no more mixing monobath from various fine powders.

    http://new55project.blogspot.com/2010/01/donal-qualls-successful-monobath.html

    EDIT: Sorry I misread the question. If you're looking for safe chemicals, the color film chemistry is more safe due to the lack of Metol in the developer, which is an allergen. If they are afraid of chemicals, you can remind them that 40 years ago kids played with mercury from broken thermometers. If you stick with Sprint chemistry you should have little trouble. If the kids drink the chemicals, it's a problem but I don't think they taste very good which is a natural deterrent. The worst part of the chemistry is used fixer, which contains dissolved silver.
     
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  4. IloveTLRs

    IloveTLRs Member

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    Sorry if I read this wrong, but do you mean safest in terms of consistent results or least harmful chemical content?

    If it's the former, I'd vote for Tri-X 400 and D-76. I'm naughty and don't check temps and I still get good results.
    If it's the latter, I'm note sure (I haven't used that many developers.) Perhaps HC-110? I've heard it has less harmful chemicals in it.
     
  5. michaelbsc

    michaelbsc Member

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    Use Caffinol with vitamin C as a developer. Use vinegar as a stop bath. Use swimming pool pH control as fixer.

    All of it will be common familiar containers, so no one will care.
     
  6. Aurum

    Aurum Member

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    To clarify, safe as in least harmful chemical content, or percieved harmful chemical content. (Hence the Xtol suggestion haven't investigated HC-110)
    If I say "Developer" it would be classed as "Lethal chemicals", If I say Vitamin C solution, that would be classed as "Health Drink" even though the actual formulation of both is the same. The joys of dealing with non chemical understanding Jobsworths
    I'd agree D-76 / ID11 is a robust beginners choice that will take all manner of abuse and still give useable results. Myself when I develop films for the school, I would either use Ilfosol 3 or R09, but thats what I have to hand and I work well with it on a 1 shot basis

    You'd think so wouldn't you? I work for a cosmetics company. We make skin creams and shampoo. I regularly have to send out health and safety data sheets (Which aren't actually a legal requirement for single packs to old folks homes and the like because some jobsworth wants to tick a box without thinking
     
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  7. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

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    Most developers are various combinations of the same stuff, and none of it is stuff you'd want to drink, especially bad coffee :D But you already know this.

    On this side of the pond Sprint probably is the "safest" line of photo chemistry. For your side of the pond, I'd look at Wolfgang Moerch's products
     
  8. mattmoy_2000

    mattmoy_2000 Member

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    PaRodinal, might be one to try- after all, it contains paracetamol as its active ingredient (or "acetaminophen", if you're American). Fixer is pretty much just the same chemical in different packages, so perhaps showing them the HSDS or whatever might be the way forwards.
     
  9. michaelbsc

    michaelbsc Member

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    There may be more of a legal requirement than you're suspecting.

    I used to run the MSDS program at one plant, and the insane BS the Health Department can require is mind boggling.

    For example, under current law here, if I buy your shampoo to wash my hair there is no MSDS requirement. If I run an old folks home, and little old Miss Mary buys your shampoo to wash her hair, there is no requirement for an MSDS. But if Miss Mary gets too frail to wash her own hair, and an attendant washes her hair with your shampoo, then I must have an MSDS on file in the improbable event that the attendant demands to know what "harmful chemicals" might be in the shampoo. Common sense never enters into the picture. The attendant has the "right" as an employee to know the health hazards, protective measures, and personal protective equipment required to safely use the shampoo. Any chemical is included in the law, even bottled distilled water if the employee is required to use it and happens to ask for the data sheet.

    Failing to provide the MSDS can result in tens of thousands of dollars of fines, especially if the omission is determined to be willful on the part of the employer.

    It's unintended consequences run amok.

    Michael
     
  10. Aurum

    Aurum Member

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    A thought here is that the MSDS / HSDS that is supplied will probably have Less information about hazards, and the contents than the product label itself!:tongue:oliceman:

    We of course do not mention that the ink used for inkjetting digital prints is probably not the sort of thing that you would really want in your morning coffee however bad it tastes
     
  11. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    I don't think any amount of information would convince people who has already made their mind up. This world is full of people afraid of electromagnetic waves and radiations and speak loudly against them but have no understanding of what they are. Those people aren't interested in knowing the danger because they already know! First sign of any reaction, induced by reaction to the substance or otherwise, "those dangerous stuff" will be blamed and the school will be put on potentially lengthy and expensive defensive.

    I personally think, kids need to be taught how to handle potentially dangerous (but they aren't) stuff safely and correctly, but that's not how world turns these days. I am not sure if 9 years old is old enough for something like this, but you'll be a better judge of that than I.

    When I was showing one of my friends how darkroom stuff works, one of the question he had was, "are these chemicals dangerous?" To that, I immediately stuck my finger in it and held it up for him to see as an answer. He was fully convinced. Maybe you can do a demonstration?

    You may also find other schools that already have such a program as an example and reference for how safely these process can be handled.
     
  12. mattmoy_2000

    mattmoy_2000 Member

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    That reminds me of an annoying lab partner I had whilst at school. He was a pain in the backside and refused to go anywhere near the hydrogen peroxide that we were supposed to be using and winced as if I was juggling with HF every time I moved the bottle. As such he was being somewhat of a hinderance. In frustration with him, I told him to stop being such a pain in the arse, and stuck my thumb into the liquid to show how harmless it was. Admittedly, some skin on my thumb did go a bit white for a couple of days, but that was worth it to just shut him up!
     
  13. Anon Ymous

    Anon Ymous Member

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    Not really. Parodinal uses paracetamol and a hydroxide to produce p-aminophenol. p-aminophenol isn't the most benign of developing agents, quite the opposite actually. It's EU classification is carcinogen - mutagen cat 2. Besides, it should contain extra hydroxide, which would make it quite caustic.
     
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  15. fschifano

    fschifano Member

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    Getting back to your initial question. Yes, XTOL is supposed to be more environmentally friendly than most of the other commercially available developers out there, and it is a VERY good developer. There is no problem with XTOL's shelf life either. It's probably your best bet for a safe, reliable, and high quality developer. If you store it as recommended, it will last at least as long as the manufacturer recommends. Stop bath, once diluted, is safe and is even less acidic than vinegar. A very mild, but effective stop bath can be made of citric acid, something you can find in just about any supermarket. Fixer is not really a problem, but some types can smell - mostly of the acetic acid.


    Home made coffee based developer? Well, aside from the fact that it really smells bad, it's not so dependable and takes forever to work. I don't think that's a good idea.


    And when you get down to it, what good is teaching the kids how to develop film without the ability to make prints? Without a full on darkroom, all they'll see are negatives, and that's not going to capture the typical kid's imagination. I even have reservations about them being even moderately enthused about monochrome images. Of course if you have access to a film scanner, you can do something with film that might interest the kids.
     
  16. Nicholas Lindan

    Nicholas Lindan Advertiser Advertiser

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  17. lns

    lns Member

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    I personally chose X-Tol and HC-110 after researching this issue, because I have three kids at home. The Film Developing Cookbook and the Darkroom Cookbook have good information about ingredients and safety.

    X-Tol lasts for me at least 6 months in full glass bottles, so I wouldn't worry about that.

    Now that my kids have progressed to taking darkroom classes themselves, I'd say that the most important thing is teaching them to be careful about putting their hands in the chemicals too much, and to wash up well afterwards.

    -Laura
     
  18. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    I'd use HC-110. It is versatile, cheap, easy to use, requires no mixing of powders, and does not have metol in it. You can use a water rinse in place of a stop bath. As for fixer, I don't know. Perhaps Photographer's Formulary TF-5 alkaline fixer would be safer than a rapid fixer, though I do not know.
     
  19. jp498

    jp498 Member

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    The smell of caffenol-C disgusts kids. While it might be safe, the smell will deter them. My particular mixture only takes 12 minutes to develop a roll of film.

    One cool thing kids like is prewash. Clean water in; a minute or two later, green or blue or rich purple water out, depending on the film. I pour it into a tray so my 5yo can play with it while I go on to the developing.

    Another thing kids like is making photograms under the enlarger i.e. making contact print shapes of things they already have and appreciate. I did this in school in 7th grade. My 5yo daughter contact printed some lego people, keys, and other small toys, let me run it through the chemicals, then I let her manage the wash. When it was dry, she had some cool shapes which she neatly colored the way they should be with magic markers. She also gets otherwise discarded test prints to hand color with markers. Magic marker slowly dries on RC paper, so it gives quite an opportunity to get creative with it.

    [​IMG]

    With no burners I'd suggest it's safer than cooking. They might like doing pinhole projects as well onto paper. Those could then be scanned if they wanted them inverted/flipped, but I think they'd probably cool in their own right just as they come out of the processing.
     
  20. Gerald C Koch

    Gerald C Koch Member

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    Because of the strong alkalies used in the two suggested honebrew developers you should avoid them. In fact, you should avoid any homebrew developers at this point of the students education. I taught chemistry for some years and you would be amazed at the accidents that can happen.

    I would suggest Tri-X and Xtol as the safest and most dependable combination for students.
     
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  21. Gerald C Koch

    Gerald C Koch Member

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    The supposed allergic reaction to Metol was not caused by the Metol but by an impurity (paraphenylenediamine) introduced by the manufacturing method used many, many years ago. This method is no longer used and Metol no longer causes any problem, HOWEVER, the suggestion that color developing are safer is absolutely false. The color developing agents used can and do cause allergic reactions. In fact many of the color developing agents are relatives of paraphenylenediamine which caused the problem with Metol.
     
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  22. Aurum

    Aurum Member

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    Way I'm looking at this is this:
    Digital printing will probably have to be the sole option for now, as this is a junior school. Printers are available, a darkroom is not, so we have to make do with what is provided. I'm offering the option to get film developed, and scanned so the kids will have a physical print to go home with that was based on film rather than digital.
    My thoughts are that if you can teach a kid to see and frame with a small cheap camera, and encourage them to look at the world, that is step one. Step one outside my household will probably be digital. Next step is to show them something different, and to show them what film is capable of. That gives them the wow factor that encourages them to take more. Then, once the chemical hurdles are gotten over and they've properly been bitten, they can see what proper print manipulation can do, and I can guarantee that it will show photoshop as a bit tacky
    As for my kids, they already do shoot film, and can handle compacts and 35mm SLR's with ease and generate good shots. They can see the difference in quality between film and digital, as they shoot the latter as well.

    Just need to get them into 120 film, but they're not convinced about that yet, as they don't get the patience bit of setting up a very old camera. They do like the results, just find the extra effort a PITA.

    As the jesuits said "get 'em young..."
     
  23. jp498

    jp498 Member

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    120 doesn't need an old camera. There are cheap holga/lomo options for someone who can't manage antiques.

    I'd think hands-on use would create comfort and show them the alternative. Then they can learn the art/seeing aspects of photography without the limits of a single technology.

    I'd suggest 4x5 paper pinhole, the load them into a combiplan tank in the changing bag. That will develop a lot quicker than film and will be super cheap.
     
  24. hrst

    hrst Member

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    I agree on XTOL.

    Try to get a neutral pH sodium thiosulphate fixer. It's slower than ammonium based, but doesn't need to be acidic and still doesn't have any ammonia smell.

    Use WATER as a stop bath. At least three changes.

    Teach them how to handle chemicals and not to drink them, just like with any household cleaning agents. You can use this analogy.

    What do you mean by "[XTOL] sometimes going off without warning"? I bet it's about the "sudden death syndrome" caused by iron content too high in water, but it's still about months, not days or weeks.
     
  25. fschifano

    fschifano Member

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    So you know about the Jesuits. I had some time with them myself. Great bunch of guys, really. They knew what they were doing and I'm eternally grateful to them.
     
  26. Aurum

    Aurum Member

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    For my kids, they don't get the whole art side of the Holga experience (They think its a bit pants) The problem with the 120 equipment I have is that they have to cock shutters before firing, the film wind on isn't interlocked, and with the Lubitel 166B TLR I have, they just can't handle the whole "framing in reverse" thing (so I'm not planning on getting a LF set up just yet...)
    A rolleicord or Rolleiflex on the other hand where they don't have to spot faint print through a red window may be a better bet.
    The pinhole idea is something I'm seriously considering, especially with the availability of Ilford positive paper, which Ag Photographic hold in stock I believe. As they're local, its an easy choice to source :D

    Xtol is something I have no experience of using, mainly due to lack of time to play, and it hasn't been easily available to buy in local suppliers in the past. D76/ID-11, Ilfosol 3 and R09 have been, so thats what I've used and become comfortable with.
    As there have been reports of issues in the past, I have to take note of that, and if those issues have been left behind or can be worked around, even better. Thats why I come onto APUG- to get information, which I've got in spades with this thread.
    I'm certainly considering trying out Caffenol C, and the PaRodinal systems, for fun at home. Thanks for the links and heads up

    Another thought (probably more for show and tell) might be to shoot a roll of 6x9 around the local area, then reverse process it. I can guarantee none of them will have seen transparencies THAT size before