[Alt-photo] Dichromate Poisoing

Mary gneissgirl at cableone.net
Tue Oct 24 15:38:34 UTC 2017

Charles, In my opinion what is lacking is a reasonably accurate understanding of risk. 

I think you are not being fair to Chris and others who responsibly use and dispose of hazardous chemicals in alt process printing. We all cringe when we see videos of people who dunk and dip their bare hands in trays of who-knows-what, and with unprotected eyes, to boot. 

As Chris pointed out, potential harm lurks everywhere in our world. The chlorine bleach in my laundry room is hazardous and I use it with caution and respect. And I don’t use it indiscriminately.

I spent 30 years as a research geologist for the USGS and I spent plenty of time in laboratories handling various hazardous chemicals. The key to managing and minimizing the risk is to use established safety protocols. 

I believe it is possible to use these materials safely and responsibly. I always wear gloves, apron, and eyeglasses to protect myself. I do my best to protect the environment in my workspace and outside my home. When I make a gum print I collect the excess emulsion and brush-washings and periodically take them to the local hazmat collection site. I use a development tray system similar to Chris’s (in fact, learned it at her workshop at Photographer’s Formulary), where the first immersion bath is separate and saved. This isolates most of the dichromate for proper disposal.

These are practices that anyone can use to protect themselves and their environment. It’s a matter of using available information and common sense.

Yes, there is risk associated with handling some of these materials, and the key is to be conscious of that and reduce the risk as much as possible. Each of us should decide for ourselves. Scolding people is not appropriate or effective.

I can understand why one should wear an properly filtered dust mask (a real one, not a painter’s mask), eye protection, and gloves, etc. when pouring dry powdered chemicals. However, I would like to see the scientific data on the vapor pressure of a 10% solution of K dichromate in distilled water at room temperature before I start to worry about that. I know better than to sniff beakers...

Mary Donato

"I yam what I yam and that's all what I yam"
.....Popeye the Sailor Man

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