Health risks of developing B&W at home
Old 04-10-2014   #1
Roel
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Health risks of developing B&W at home

I'm developing my own B&W films since 2 years in the kitchen. Must say I am quit happy with the results of my films.

Love to load my M6/M5 with Tmax 400 @1600 and get a kick out of the doing it myself routine.

At the same time the Monochrom is very appealing but one of the reasons to not go that route is the analog 'kick' i just described.

I did never take into account the possible health riscs i get myself into when developing the stuff at home.

What do you guys think about the health risc/danger of working with the chemicals at home. At the moment i use D76 developer and before I used Amaloco AM74. Tmax for fixer.

Is it something i should take into account? How bad is it?
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Old 04-10-2014   #2
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This is something I'm interested in too - but am not an expert in toxicology. What I do know is MSDS sheets should be available online for you developer and fixer - find them and read them.

Exposure depends on your developing habits. I develop in my bathroom with the exhaust fan on for ventilation and wear disposable rubber gloves, and clean the countertops off thoroughly when done. I don't like the idea of fixer residues getting on my dishes, or into my skin.
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Old 04-10-2014   #3
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From my understanding, there are a lot variables. Ventilation, gloves, cleanliness, etc., all play a role. Not to mention, not all chemicals are the same.

I think I do a good job of trying to keep things safe, but who know? The only time I can really "feel" the harshness of the chemicals is when I mix up a fresh batch of developer and/or fixer. And by feel, I suppose I mean smell.
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Old 04-10-2014   #4
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As long as you take good measures to avoid direct contact with the chemistry you use as it sounds like you do already, the risk is very small.
It is a greater risk eating the food you buy in the grocery store today than developing your own film. Animals are treated with hormones and who knows what to promote growth, fruit trees are sprayed with pesticides and veggies fertilized with who knows what.
Develop away and enjoy the process.
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Old 04-10-2014   #5
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powder developer seems to be more of a concern but it shouldn't just be inhaled and thats it.
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Old 04-10-2014   #6
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Developing film at home is not much of a risk, unless you inadvertently drink the chemistry or don't wash your hands afterwards. Ventilation is also not a problem when developing film. Printing on the other hand is an entirely different story. It really used to bother me flushing the chemistry down the drain or the toilet afterwards. Ventilation is very much a concern as well. Mixing powered chemistry too. A paper mask is the least requirement.
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Old 04-10-2014   #7
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I never worried much about it to be honest. Always seemed like most household cleaners are far worse than standard developing chemicals. When I was shooting 4x5 I used to tray develop in Rodinal barehanded and only problem I ever had was slightly drier skin due to its corrosive nature. Nothing a little lotion couldn't cure. I'm always very thorough with clean-up, but more so because I'm worried about staining work surfaces. The only time I take extra precautions is with selenium toner as I read that it can leach into your skin and definitely need good ventilation with that due to strong ammonia smell.

Edit: While typing my reply I see some have mentioned powdered chemicals. I've only ever used liquid concentrates and therefore never had to worry about dust inhalation issues.
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Old 04-10-2014   #8
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What Jan said. My Paterson tank leaks a little, so I get chemicals onto the kitchen counter at times, but I just give it a good wipe down afterwards. The rags are rinsed well in the sink when I'm done, and laid onto the side of the wash hamper to dry, then washed w/ the other stuff. Make sure to rinse them well. You should exercise normal caution when mixing any powdered chemicals. Since D76 has to have hot water that needs to be cked for temp on the stove, I basically do everything under the vent hood w/ the fan on, and don't stand directly over it when stirring it. Pouring it out of the bag will definitely release fine particulates into the air, so again, don't stand right over it. I also use a bandana over my nose and mouth while keeping it under the vent hood w/ the fan on. Maybe overkill, but better safe than....

Always use gloves, and I make sure to keep my glasses on in case of a splash. Again, not standing right on top of things will eliminate splash issues. And never ever use any kitchen pans or spoons to mix anything unless you plan on using them only for your chemicals from now on. Everything should be clearly labeled as poison and which poison it is if you store your chemicals in old wine bottles, water bottles, etc, and I keep everything in a separate counter under the sink all together. Obviously if you have kids you will need a safer place. Our cat loves to open counters to see what's in there and go in and ck things out, so I had to put a latch on that counter.

Contact your city's water/sewer dept to see what chemicals are OK to pour down the drain, and which need to be saved and taken to a waste disposal place. Every city seems to have their own ideas on this. If you are on a septic tank, research what you are allowing to leach into the surrounding ground water.
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Old 04-10-2014   #9
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I would add the use of rubber tipped tongs to the shopping list of safety items for tray development . Peter
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Old 04-10-2014   #10
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Living is of some great health risks : at the end of the day, you die.
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Old 04-10-2014   #11
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Have you tried RTFM?
Kodak doesn't seems to be lying about their products as old tobacco companies.

But if you need an excuse to buy M, yes, b/w film processing at home is extremely dangerous
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Old 04-10-2014   #12
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Interesting I was just thinking about this, this morning.
I know many old timers that were processing and printing for over 40 years and I can't recall one of them coming down with anything related to the film chemicals.
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Old 04-10-2014   #13
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I knew a guy who developed b&w film daily for about 50 years for his camera store / photo lab and he died. OK, he was in his 80's.
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Old 04-10-2014   #14
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BW chemistry is pretty innocuous (don't drink it). Color chemistry is nastier.
I haven't worried too much about it this past half century.

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Old 04-10-2014   #15
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Most of the widely available chemistry for B/W processing is not seriously toxic.

Some people have or develop allergic reactions to developing agents (I think Metol is particularly common). No doubt, there are some suspected carcinogens. You can always get and read the MSD sheet on the chemicals you plan to use.

Most stop bath is either acetic acid (vinnegar) or citric acid (common food additive).

Most fixers are either sodium or amonium thiosulfate as their primary ingedient.

When developing sheet film which involves contact with the chemicals, I wear gloves. Not because of any specific agents, it just seems like a decent idea. Boxes of exam gloves are cheap at Costco.

I don't wear gloves with roll films in tanks, little to no contact, or when printing. I handle wet prints with tongs.

Read the MSDS!
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Old 04-10-2014   #16
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When I researched about home development, safety was of course one factor. I found nothing to indicate that we're at any significant risk.

I of course take some common sense precautions: I mixed the chemicals in a slow and safe way, I wear gloves when developing, I use separate measuring cylinders and spoons to stir, use dedicated thermometers, don't just pour stuff down the sink but bottle it safely, etc.

As long as you're not drinking the stuff, it all seems quite safe. I don't see a need to go full out with the tyvek space suit, goggles, rebreather, etc.
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Old 04-10-2014   #17
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I used to use XTOL, which is a powdered developer that uses vitamin C and phenidone, neither of which cause dermatitis.

More concerning is the house (and clothes, and the cat) smelling like fixer.
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Old 04-10-2014   #18
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Spend $20 and get a pair of lab goggles and a box of nitrile gloves. Then just work carefully, avoiding spills and drips or cleaning them up right away. Have decent ventilation, and store chemicals in a plastic tote. I also put on a dust mask when making up powdered chemicals and wipe down any nearby counter or table afterwards. Keep food and dishes/glasses away from the work area. May sound overly cautious but it's easy to take these preventive measures. Same with color chemicals.

The safety data sheets should be read so you know what to do in case of an accident (large splash on your skin or accidental ingestion). The exposure levels provided are really for occupational exposure, i.e., for workers who are in a lab all day and where the air quality is measured occasionally.
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Old 04-10-2014   #19
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Old 04-10-2014   #20
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Probably overkill.
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Old 04-10-2014   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mllanos1111 View Post
Interesting I was just thinking about this, this morning.
I know many old timers that were processing and printing for over 40 years and I can't recall one of them coming down with anything related to the film chemicals.
Be run tens of thousands of sheets and rolls of film both b&w and color since starting in the late 50's and never had an issue. I've known personally several other professionals to live well into their 90's and over 100 with no problems. As a matter of fact I know several still living in their 90's. One of my associates passed away last year at 92.
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Old 04-10-2014   #22
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There health risks are not really significant if you take just a few small precautions. The first is ventilation. Most kitchens or bathrooms have ventilation fans which will draw out most vapors. The next is contact with your skin, which isn't so much dangerous to your health, but the chemicals can dry your skin enough to cause pain and cracks (which I have learned form long experience), you should wear rubber gloves when filling, agitating, or otherwise handling your tanks, as well as when rinsing your film.

The point when you should be most careful is when mixing powdered developer, when pouring the powder into a container, it lets of a lot of fine dust which is easily inhaled. It also gives off dust when water is added to it. I tend to keep my head well away from my hands when mixing dry chemicals.
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Old 04-10-2014   #23
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I would never thought about developing in my kitchen. I do spend a lot of time in the kitchen as well, probably more than developing, and one thing I try to do is to keep it clean to prevent cross contamination. Who knows where the small droplets of developer or fixer is going to end up.

In the bathroom, at least I could wash down the entire bathroom with water after every development (I must say my significant other must be happy she doesn't have to do this chore). Can't say that I could do the same step with a kitchen.
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Old 04-10-2014   #24
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If you have concerns wear nitrile gloves (not latex), use a mask to cover your mouth and wear safety glasses.
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Old 04-11-2014   #25
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Quote:
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Probably overkill.
... no hazmat suite? ... leather apron and tongs
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Old 04-11-2014   #26
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The only time I wear safety glasses, apron and gloves is when I do collodion wet plate images. With collodion I'm working with cadmium, silver nitrate and potassium cyanide. I even wear a full face shield when pouring potassium cyanide just in case I get a splash in the face which could be deadly. I also use the cyanide in a well ventilated area or outside. Also I only dispose of the KCN after completely neutralizing it with hydrogen peroxide. No mistakes are allowed in this process.
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Old 04-11-2014   #27
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Wow. Thanx guys for all your responses. So normal safety measures like gloves and good ventilation are in order.

Fortunately most of you did not encounter very serious effects. However reading the first pages (on Amazon) of the writer of this book there are also other stories which don't sound to happy.

Did not read the book and maybe the bigger danger is concerning color chemicals.

For myself I will stop using the D76 powder chemicals and use a liquid alternative.


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Old 04-11-2014   #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sejanus.Aelianus View Post
There is one known problem with developer: it can harm your skin. I suffered from quite serious damage to my hands when I was young and too stupid to wear gloves.

The dermatologist who treated me, explained that it's an allergic reaction and different people are sensitive to different developers. Being in London, though, he saw a substantial number of people who worked in darkrooms at that time (late 'sixties). I started wearing rubber gloves and haven't had a problem since, despite making many thousands of prints and developing an awful lot of film.
Some people do develop alergies. There are some other chemicals in not often used processes, some of which are mentioned above. One not mentioned yet is pyrol. Last I knew, there stilll wasn't any study that verifed a link, but empirically, it was linked to parkinson's disease among those who used it without gloves, which was common some years ago. Pyrol is considered a poison, but lethal amounts aren't extablished for humans due to a severe shortage of human test volunteers.

But most common b/w chemicals are relatively safe, with just a little common sense care.
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Old 04-11-2014   #29
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... take care with those rubber gloves though ... they can be really harmful LINK
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Old 04-11-2014   #30
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I don't see any reason to stop using D76 if you like it. It has been around for decades upon decades and used by probably millions over the course of its production. While I have never used it, I know many that use it regularly and swear by it. Here's a good write up on it:

http://jeffreysoper.com/node/101
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Old 04-11-2014   #31
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To avoid health risks I suggest staying home and locking the door. Driving the car, crossng the street, using mobile telephones all have risks that could seriously damage one's health. Not to mention air quality in cities, hormones and antibiotics in the food chain, as well as...
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Old 04-11-2014   #32
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One of the top priorities for you is a professional exhaust system. Also note that some towns/cities require a silver reclamation tank because dumping chemicals down the drain causes water and soil contamination.
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Old 04-11-2014   #33
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Developing B&W film and prints is a risk - a photographer in my neighborhood died at the age of 100 years! So, if you don't drink the chemicals, protect yourself from contact with that stuff and breathe clean air there's not much risk. Bring your used fluids to the hazardous waste disposal site. Just my 2 cents.
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Old 04-11-2014   #34
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Gloves and eye protection are common sense when working around chemicals. And don't share equipment that could be used in food preparation.

The biggest risk in B/W processing, IMO, is mixing stop bath from concentrated Glacial Acetic Acid. Always add a small quantity of acid to a larger quantity of water, and not the reverse (otherwise a violent exothermic reaction could result in acid exploding in your face). Don't spill it, even small drops, as they are very corrosive. Use labware like plastic pipette tubes and use good laboratory handling skills. And don't drink too much caffeine beforehand.

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Old 04-11-2014   #35
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Roel, being export manager for Amaloco Photochemicals (2000-2008) I can only tell you that the amount of Hydroquinone in AM74 was less then any prescriped amount for hazardous tests on rats, concerning carcinogenic caused to death. Maco had a lot of our chemicals under OEM and now they have ordered Spur for a succesor for AM74 with even a real minimum of Hydroquinone. It is called Rollei Supergrain and I must say this is a real nice semi-compensating developer for almost any B&W film. About powder chemicals it is obvious that these can cause more risk due to dust when dissolving it.
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Old 04-11-2014   #36
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The greatest risk, if you are like me, is the aggregate number of beers you would consume during developing sessions across months/years.
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Old 04-11-2014   #37
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That book is a little bit extreme in it's POV.

There are some risks, and some people develop dermatitis and other reactions to some developers. But for most people, it's easily avoided by using gloves, and/or keeping your hands out of the chemistry. The other precautions like using a dust mask when mixing dry chemicals, and general ventilation are also good ideas.

Kitchens aren't the best place for doing processing though. Even though most of the chemicals for conventional B&W aren't deadly poisons you don't want to eat or drink them.
You can always tell how careful a darkroom worker is by looking at the DR a few hours after he has finished, are there little white spots here and there of dried fixer?
It's easy enough to wipe down counters, but the small drops or splatters that may end up somewhere they shouldn't can be easy to miss.

If possible, I'd recommend switching to a bathroom if you can't arrange a dedicated space.
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Old 04-11-2014   #38
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The big risk is developing an allergy to the metol in D76. It is rare, but does happen. If it does, you can not be in the same room as even mixed D76 I am told.

Keep bare hand out of it and rinse if it splashes.

ID11 uses phenoden instead and does not produce allergy. Results are the same.

Do not breath dust while mixing.
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Old 04-12-2014   #39
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The problem with "metol" (elon) is not the metol itself, but impuritys in the metol that cause reactions in some people.

As for the famed "pyro causes Parkinson's" line that's BS. Every time that one comes up they mention Margret Bourke-White. Uh, folks...she didn't do her own darkroom work. The other is Edward Weston-and he lived to be 80 !

One of Ansel Adam's last requests was that tissue samples be taken after his death to see what damage 65+ years of darkroom work had done. Now, Ansel had used Amidol, Pyro and selenium toner over the years along with more common photo chemicals. The tests found nothing.

If you're worried, use nitrile gloves...I've found that latex gloves just don't hold up well and make sure you have good ventilation. Powdered chemicals put a bunch of chemical dust in the air during mixing.
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Old 04-12-2014   #40
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Some photochemicals are dangerous, but the commonly used ones can be safely handled with minimal precautions. I support using nitrile gloves (they are more puncture-proof than latex or vinyl gloves, and non-allergic), and goggles whenever chemicals are used. Wear a dust mask if you mix powders.

Any chemical that feels like soap on your skin, like rodinal, is highly alkaline. Be sure to wash it off right away, as it can cause burns. Same goes for the concentrated acids - stop bath concentrate, and film hardener. Everything else, be sure to wash well after you finish up.

A note on allergies - many chemicals have the potential to trigger an allergic reaction. These tend to get worse over time. If you encounter an allergic reaction, such as swelling, rash, or shortness of breath, avoid that chemical in the future. If it persists, see a doctor.
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