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  1. #1
    PhotoManiac3000's Avatar
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    asthma and chemicals

    I was reading a really great interview/article with tom millea on focus magazine's website. In the beginning of the interview, it talks about ventillation in your darkroom not being good, well, he's developed problems with his lungs. I have a condition known as intrinsic asthma (which is a type of asthma not caused by allergens, but can be set off by chemicals) and have a heredity of lung cancer in my family (all non-smokers)...I'm wondering, since my dark room is in my basement, what I can do for proper ventillaiton or if I should just let labs develop my film for me? Can these labs handle platinum/palladium?

  2. #2
    Aodhán's Avatar
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    You can always see if one of those professional chemical masks is an option for you.
    They'r not very comfortable but in the long run might be a good investment for your health.

  3. #3

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    Dear 'Maniac',

    First, I would consult the American Cancer Society. If after that I wasn't frightened off, a good venting system with hoods directly above (and fairly close to) your trays is a fairly cheap and easy project. The local home center should have everything you need. I saw a really beautiful system once that used large diameter PVC pipe rather than ductwork.

    Neal Wydra

  4. #4
    Bill Mobbs's Avatar
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    The large diameter pvc is a great idea for a good workable exhaust system. I have seen some that have a large collector tray over the work area made of clear plastic. You will need a strong exhaust fan to take the bad stuff away.
    "Nobody is perfect! But even among those that are perfect, some are more perfect than others." Walt Sewell 1947

  5. #5

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    You may also want to use odorless fix and stop bath, Clayton has both. I have use both and found both to be really odorless.

  6. #6
    Rlibersky's Avatar
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    Should still check the MSDS on the orderless products. Orderless does not mean fumeless.

  7. #7
    Donald Qualls's Avatar
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    Very much so -- in fact, the "odor" part of conventional stop bath and most of the odor from fixer are just acetic acid, like vinegar (and about half the strength, in the case of stop bath). Where you're most likely to encounter respiratory problems with darkroom chemicals is sufur dioxide emission from acid fixer. Alkaline fixer is worse, with ammonia emission. Solution: near-neutral fixer, like the C-41 or automated processor fixers that you can buy as concentrate in gallon or larger jugs from the larger photo suppliers. You'll pay more to ship the big jug (weighs between 10 and 15 or so pounds, depending on the exact package), but you save enough on the contents to be worth it; this stuff does the same job and has the same capacity as common rapid fixer products, but costs less than 1/4 as much per gallon of working solution.

    For odorless stop bath, there shouldn't be any worries; they're citric acid, often with a buffering agent, and shouldn't bother you any more than lemonade would (quite possibly less, since they're less acidic).

    For developers, if you use a liquid concentrate, you'll avoid airborne developer particulate, which is the primary source of problems with developer. HC-110 and Rodinal are very nice developers, the concentrates keep extremely well, and both are economical to use. There are many other liquid concentrate developers, also, including paper developers. I've never noticed any significant odor from any developer, but (as pointed out above), that doesn't mean they aren't emitting fumes that could be harmful to your asthma.

    Bottom line, though, the fixer is your worst enemy, with a known emission of a known problem chemical, and you can beat that one with one stroke.
    Photography has always fascinated me -- as a child, simply for the magic of capturing an image onto glossy paper with a little box, but as an adult because of the unique juxtaposition of science and art -- the physics of optics, the mechanics of the camera, the chemistry of film and developer, alongside the art in seeing, composing, exposing, processing and printing.

  8. #8
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    This is another good reason for using a Jobo. The chemicals can be mixed and then stored in bottles with lids. The chemical “action” goes on in the tank. When you are done with each stage of development the chemicals can be dumped into bottles with lids. All this dramatically reduces exposure to fumes.

    Because of bad allergies I use the Jobo and fans ducted through 4” PVC pipes. The pipes are white and even go with the “décor” of the wet side of the darkroom.

    Breath easy,

    John Powers

  9. #9
    juan's Avatar
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    I have asthma, too, and mix all of my chemicals wearing a paint-spray mask with a filter rated for chemical fumes. I make my own stop bath using citric acid only.

    For fixer, I've been using TF-2, which is an alkaline fixer containing only sodium thiosulfate, sodium sulfite and sodium metaborate. It doesn't seem to have any fumes, but I'm no chemist. Donald, do you have any thoughts?

  10. #10

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    I have asthma and have never had a problem. Venting a darkroom is common sense, so go ahead and do it. Not that hard. As for mixing chemicals I do it outside.
    Technological society has succeeded in multiplying the opportunities for pleasure, but it has great difficulty in generating joy. Pope Paul VI

    So, I think the "greats" were true to their visions, once their visions no longer sucked. Ralph Barker 12/2004

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