Art Hazards

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photoPhoto Processing

Photographers may work with highly hazardous photo processing chemical products that can their health, such as

  • toxic toners, developers and reducers.
  • corrosive stop bath chemicals.
  • corrosive and toxic intensifiers.
  • toxic color stabilizers.
  • toxic hardeners.
  • flammable solvents in film cleaners.

Protecting your skin and eyes

Protecting your lungs

  • Buy your chemicals premixed to eliminate toxic and corrosive dust.
  • Purchase acetic acid pre-diluted to a concentration under 50 percent.
  • Switch to water-based solvent cleaners to reduce toxic solvent vapors.
  • Store cyanide-containing compounds away from ultraviolet (UV) light, heat and acids.
  • Glove BoxWhen mixing photo developers or stabilizers with water, either use a glove box or local exhaust ventilation to protect you from hazardous dust.
    • Glove boxes have been inexpensively made by many artists.
  • Protect your lungs when
    • mixing dry toners, developers, reducers and intensifiers.
    • working with toxic toners, intensifiers and solvents.

Use safer choices

  • Use liquid toners, developers and reducers instead of powders to eliminate toxic dust.
  • Purchase pre-diluted stop bath solution to reduce the risk of chemical burns.
  • Intensifiers may contain corrosive hydrochloric acid, cancer-causing dichromate compounds or toxic cyanide and mercury compounds. Farmer’s reducer is a safer substitute but keep it away from contact with acid, UV light or heat.
  • Toners may contain toxic selenium, sulfide or thiourea compounds. Use premixed toners to limit toxic dusts.
  • Developers contain toxic ingredients like catechol, p-phenylene diamine, pyrogallic acid, and hydroquinone that can cause severe skin allergies on contact. Buy premixed developers to eliminate hazardous dusts.
  • Photo reducers may contain strong oxidizers like potassium permanganate. Store and use these reducers away from flammable solvents.
  • Most color stabilizers contain cancer-causing formaldehyde. Wear protective gloves and protect your lungs when working with color stabilizers.
  • Keep containers closed to prevent spills of toxic liquids and powders.
  • Use a plastic secondary containment tub under waste collection containers to control spills and leaks.

We can help

Safely dispose of photo processing wastes

  • Empty containers can be disposed in the trash once almost all the materials they held are gone.
  • Unused photochemicals must be disposed as hazardous waste.
  • Unused film can be disposed in the garbage.
  • Spent black and white developer can be disposed to the sanitary sewer.
  • Collect and store spent photo fixer in a separate container. Then deliver it to a silver reclaimer.
  • Learn how to dispose of your art studio wastes.