Saturday, 10 February 2018

Soldering Fumes

Exhausting Soldering Fumes

Health and Safety
The health and safety of working with lead and solder are a great concern of many people.  Greg Rawls, the acknowledged expert in glass working health and safety, puts soldering and lead work in perspective.

Soldering lead came for stained glass does not usually present an inhalation hazard if the area is well ventilated and you are using an iron and not a torch. With normal soldering, you are melting the lead at temperatures that are NOT hot enough to create a fume.
Lead fume is the inhalation exposure issue. Fumes are very small respirable particulates that are made with heat. Liquid chemicals give off vapours.
Avoid exposure by ventilating the area when soldering, especially if using a torch instead of an iron. Open a window and turn on a fan!  Wash your hands thoroughly when finished working with lead. There are specific products for this purpose.
Use a P95 or P100 respirator when concerned about lead exposure.

There are commercially made fume traps which often have an activated charcoal filter and can be effective.  A simple desk top fan blowing away from you can be effective in well ventilated areas, if you are working on your own. (otherwise it blows the smoke toward others.)

An example of a fan drawing fumes away from the person soldering

Making a fan
Exhausting fumes while soldering is a safety issue. If you happen to have an outdoor screened-in studio a simple fix can be had with a computer fan! You can scavenge such a fan from an older used computer ready for disposal. Simply cut four timbers 50mm square or 25mm x 100mm to fit around it as a box. Attach a long electrical cord to it with an approved plug. Attach a screen to both sides. Plug in. An additional feature is to attach an activated charcoal filter (as used for cooker hoods) to the front of the fan. This removes particles and some fumes.

Always set a fan to draw fumes away you, generally pointing it so that it is blowing the fumes in the same direction as the larger air flow in the studio. A very large fan doesn't always do the job alone, since the fumes seem to rise and find your nose. However, with an additional small fan sitting right next to where you are currently soldering, the fumes just move away.

Wearing an appropriate dust mask as illustrated by the Bohem Stained Glass Studio is the best solution.