Prepared by Chehalis Hegner
Prolonged and repeated exposures to photographic chemicals, as with any chemical substance, can lead to chronic health problems. The degree of risk depends on several factors: length of exposure, frequency and amount of exposure, toxicity of the materials, total body burden (the cumulative effect on the body of all the different exposures to any single chemical and other chemicals from various sources). Individual susceptibility must also be taken into account. Some people are more susceptible to harm from a particular chemical than are other people. High risk groups include smokers, heavy alcohol drinkers, and people with chronic diseases of the heart, lungs, kidney, and liver.
Pregnant and lactating women are a very high risk group because even minute amounts of many chemicals may damage a fetus or be transmitted through the milk to the nursing child.
1. Use common sense. Pace yourself when working in the darkroom. Take regular outside rest periods so that intense, prolonged exposure to any potentially toxic materials is reduced.
2. Protect yourself from chemical absorption through the skin. Never put your hands into photographic chemicals unless you are wearing the appropriate gloves.
3. Do not splash chemicals. Splashing is a common cause of eye contamination. Gently place prints into each solution to prevent splashing.
4. Wipe up ALL SPILLS IMMEDIATELY TO PREVENT PEOPLE SLIPPING AND FALLING and to prevent chemical exposures by inhalation.
5. If you are mixing chemicals from powders or from liquid concentrates or if you are toning you must wear an appropriate respirator and safety goggles. When mixing acids with water, always add the acid to water, never the reverse. When water is added to concentrated acids (such as glacial acetic acid used to mix a stop bath) a violent reaction may occur causing the mixture to boil and splatter about the room.
If you do get chemicals in your eyes, flush them with a gentle, constant flow of water for at least fifteen (15) minutes. Report the accident immediately to the technician or monitor on duty. Seek medical attention as quickly as possible after flushing the eyes.
6. Be sure that waste photo processing chemicals are discarded into the correct drains.
Many sinks in the Photographic Department on the sixth floor of the Kennedy Building have two drains: one for disposing of used processing chemicals and the other for waste water from washing prints and general clean-up.
The drains intended for used processing chemicals are easy to identify: they have a large funnel permanently attached to each drain’s inlet. These special drains are labeled to indicate their function.
It is important that waste photographic processing chemicals be discarded into these specially marked drains. This may be complicated by the fact that what particular type of waste should be discarded into the special drains may change from time to time. For example, it may be necessary to discard used fixer separately from used developer and stop bath. So the fixer goes into separately marked barrels, and all other processing chemicals go down the special drain.
It is mandatory that the instructions on the labels attached to the drains, as well as disposal information posted on bulletin boards in the Department, be followed exactly. Failure to follow these instruction could result in a serious violation of state and federal environmental regulations. If you do not know exactly what to do then consult a technician or monitor before discarding any photographic waste down a drain.