[Alt-photo] Dichromate Poisoning

Charles Berger fotocmb at gmail.com
Thu Oct 26 07:12:07 UTC 2017

My post was prompted by the declaration of a highly regarded arts
educator/author that if/when dichromate was restricted here, as it is in
the EU, she had a sufficient supply for her and her students to continue
using it indefinitely.

This cavalier attitude towards the use of dichromate for the sake of
photographic printmaking is ill advised as it implies that the dangers are
not to be taken seriously.

Responses ranged (with a few exceptions) from the abusive (and idiotic)
advise not to “lick the top of Cherry wood table” to a non-sequitur
description of the installation of seat belts in a 1956 Oldsmobile.

The point I was making is that there is little discussion of dichromate
poisoning and a lack of detailed information (beyond “wear gloves”) on its
safe use in the current literature on alternative photo processes. Perhaps
Marton was correct when he wrote about “The Dichromate Disease” in The *Photo
Oleograph Process*(1900) that “Rich living and alcoholic stimulants, seem
to foster this peculiar ailment”,  and thus all we need to do is avoid such
behaviors to safely work with dichromate.

Why are so many of you upset about discussing this? And why do you feel
compelled to defend this lack of concern and to dismiss any in-depth
information on the subject as “scare tactics?”

Full disclosure:  I have recently been exploring with Chris the creation of
a book (or series of books) describing non-toxic alternatives to historic
photographic printmaking. Her statement caught me completely by surprise. I
am confident that Chris is truly concerned with the health and safety of us
all, but this dismissive attitude is unfortunate.


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