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  1. #1
    Tony-S's Avatar
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    Low toxicity, Eco-friendly B&W processing

    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. #2
    Thomas Bertilsson's Avatar
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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
    "Often moments come looking for us". - Robert Frank

    "Make good art!" - Neil Gaiman

    "...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera". - Yousuf Karsh

  3. #3
    Photo Engineer's Avatar
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    I think that the toxicity of photographic processing solutions is highly overstated by many reporters.

    PE

  4. #4
    Tony-S's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Thomas Bertilsson View Post
    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
    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.

    Quote Originally Posted by Photo Engineer View Post
    I think that the toxicity of photographic processing solutions is highly overstated by many reporters.
    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. #5

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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.
    A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.

    ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery

  6. #6
    Worker 11811's Avatar
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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.
    Randy S.

    In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni.

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    http://www.flickr.com/photos/randystankey/

  7. #7

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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. #8
    Photo Engineer's Avatar
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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. #9
    Athiril's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Photo Engineer View Post
    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
    Looks like we don't need the LHC to find those elusive particles after all!

  10. #10
    Worker 11811's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Photo Engineer View Post
    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.
    Ding!!

    +1

    Randy S.

    In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni.

    -----

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/randystankey/

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