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  1. #1

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    Darkroom respirators

    Hi!
    I have had a darkroom for over six years, and it used to be in a very poorly ventilated room, but I was pretty young and didn't care enough.
    Now I have a larger room with more air, but no ventilation whatsoever. Since I mix both liquids and powders there, I've been concerned with health issues lately, as I get somewhat dizzy after an hour or so if the chemicals are fresh. I used to use a simple face mask from the pharmacy, the kind you'd use for cleaning your bathroom, but I've been looking for something more advanced.
    Recently, my boyfriend bought me a respirator, but I'm wondering if it's the right kind.
    It's a 3M respirator with cartridges against organic vapor and acid gas and a p100 particle filter.
    From what I have read organic vapor and particle filters is what I should be looking for, but I'm not quite sure.
    Can anyone confirm I have the right stuff or recommend a better alternative?

  2. #2

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    Add some ventilation, most likely the oxygen content is dropping and the carbon dioxide level is rising, both will make you feel dizzy and sick. There is no need to mix powdered chems in a closed room. I mix up D76 and Dektol by pouring the powder into 3 liters of water in a 4 liter bottle, put the cap on and mix by inversion. Works perfectly and no airborne dust, just add 1/3 of the powder, mix, add more, mix add final, mix, top up to 4 liters. The bottles are the 4 liter ones of distilled water from Shoppers Drug Mart, $0.99 on sale.

    The only real option other than ventilation is a mask and a source of breathable air. EXPENSIVE.
    Bob

  3. #3

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    Can only agree, also I bought a cheep (for small room) HEPA filter (dont get anything that does not have HEPA filter) air purifier, and my room in the basement has crisp air, and the room is (almost) dust free, best investment i have made in my darkroom this year.

  4. #4

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    Thanks Bob! Sounds like an interesting option. However, I don't get to use the darkroom so often now, so I usually just mix enough solutions for immediate needs, since there's a good chance they'll expire by next time I get there. So I have to weight the powders on scales and transfer them to beakers and that creates a lot of airborne dust.
    And I think I'm reacting to the liquids as well, because I can clearly feel a higher degree of sickness when I am leaning closer to the trays or when they are fresh.

    So I did get a mask. I'm just looking to confirm it's the right kind...

  5. #5
    jp80874's Avatar
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    In my darkroom I use what are called in line fans that are housed in the rafters. My exhaust has duct work down to the side of the sink opposite where I stand. This keeps the fumes from rising out of the trays into my nose as they go to the exhaust fan. Across the room an intake fan brings filtered air into the room behind me.

    Some people have allergies to chemicals common in some developers (metol) and most fixers (ammonia). Usually the more exposure you get, the stronger the reaction. I believe you are receiving a wake up call in the dizziness and other reactions. Failure to respond could be serious.

    John Powers

  6. #6

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    Hm. There's something to think about...

    My darkroom is not a very professional one, in fact it's just a room in the basement. I will also likely move several times in the coming years, so I can't invest in any permanent installations. Are there any affordable portable options?

    Also, I only use it once every other week, at most. And I don't do any extravagant processing. Just plain b&w. Very rarely toning. Considering that, will I be alright with a respirator against particles, organic vapors and acid gas and a good fan to move the air around?

  7. #7
    jp80874's Avatar
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    People’s allergic reactions are as varied and numerous as the sampling of people. Simply putting a fan in a room will blow any dust on your wet or dry negatives. Blowing the same air around does not give you fresh air to breath or dilute the allergens.

    Do you or any one you can beg for help have any basic carpentry skills? An intake fan or fan and filter can be mounted on a panel that can substitute for an existing panel while you are there and be replaced when you move. An inline fan can be installed in a rafter, exhausting through an exterior wall. When you move, the hole for the exhaust fan can be filled with a panel. Both fans can move with you like a piece of furniture or your enlarger.

    We have 51,000+ members making do with something on the scale between basic to luxury. You need to find a safe place that works for you. If you are sick or worse you can’t enjoy what ever is important to you.

    John
    "If you want to be famous, you must do something more badly than anybody in the entire world." Miroslav Tichı

  8. #8

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    Now that I think of it, I have an idea.
    I have an air conditioning unit that is now mostly useless because the new place has central AC. My darkroom has a window that I have lightproofed. If I can mount the air conditioner in the window and lightproof around it, perhaps its fan mode would provide enough fresh air?
    Otherwise, the room where my darkroom is presently located opens into my garage, which is considerably large. If I work in the evening or at night when it is dark and when I don't have to fear serious light leaks, I could leave the door open, simply?
    Of course, all of that in combination with a mask.

  9. #9
    Martin Aislabie's Avatar
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    I don't have forced ventilation in my darkroom - so I just periodically (30 ~45 min) leave the door open for a few minutes

    Its surprisingly effective

    I don't mix up dry powdered chemicals in there - I do that in a room which has plenty of windows

    Martin

  10. #10
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    A scuba diving breathing device might work for you needs (I'm serious, but have no scuba stuff experience). Besides that, I would not try to work around the problem with masks and filters.

    A portable air conditioner will typically not take the air from outside or, in any case, will not create the kind of air movement that you want.
    You want a fan which will expel air from your room, and an intake of fresh air from the other side of the room. Your nose should not be above the chemistry when possible, and the air flow should displace the chemical vapours before they reach your nose. Ideally the air intake should be filtered. That's Job Powers advice basically.

    I would add:
    - forget powders, you can find liquid concentrates which will last a lot undiluted, even decades;
    - if really you have to use powders, don't prepare the solutions in the darkroom, as said by others;

    - ask your "home improvement" shopkeeper and make three or four visits there. Installing a fan for taking the air out should be fairly inexpensive, you might have to dismount a window glass (windows in basements are often very simple) and place the extracting fan with some black plastic and some tape.

    Basement windows typically have a hinge on their base and are opened pivoting on their base. If you look at how they are made, you might find that some simple glass is kept in place by some screws. Maybe you can unscrew the screws, remove the glass, put something in its place (mosquito net in the case of my garage) by using the same method. This is a reversible intervention, you can place the glass back and take with you the fan (and the filters, but you'll substitute them from time to time).

    You then take another basement window or two, take the glass away, and put some air filter on them (yes HEPA and HEPA2 filters are ideal but I don't know how easy is to find them in sheets). Just cut the filters the side of the glass and mount them, if possible, in place of the glass.

    The intake windows should be on the other side of the room for optimal air circulation. You would try to maintain your head slightly on the side of the intake.

    Take the habit of not leaning over the chemicals whenever possible. For instance you can try to place an angled mirror over the trays and see how comfortably you work.

    I would not underestimate the signals that your organism is sending to you. That stuff "stinks" in all senses.
    Fabrizio Ruggeri fine art photography site: http://fabrizio-ruggeri.artistwebsites.com
    Stock images at Imagebroker: http://www.imagebroker.com/#/search/ib_fbr

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