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Thread: handling precautions?

  1. #1

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    Question handling precautions?

    I know the basics of how toxic some chemicals in the collodion wet plate process are and I always wear protective gear while handling them, but one thing I haven't really been able to find out is how dangerous residue might be.

    If after loading a plate I touch the camera with my gloves (which are almost certainly covered in some amount of collodion + silver nitrate) should I be worried about handling the camera afterwards without gloves? For how long?

    What about the finished plates? If I observe the usual washing procedure (at least 4 minutes) and then varnish them, are they safe to handle without gloves?

  2. #2
    Tin Can's Avatar
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    Re: handling precautions?

    Good question!

    What about eye damage if we scratch an itch?
    sin eater

  3. #3

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    Re: handling precautions?

    Quote Originally Posted by someone_else View Post
    I know the basics of how toxic some chemicals in the collodion wet plate process are and I always wear protective gear while handling them, but one thing I haven't really been able to find out is how dangerous residue might be.

    If after loading a plate I touch the camera with my gloves (which are almost certainly covered in some amount of collodion + silver nitrate) should I be worried about handling the camera afterwards without gloves? For how long?

    What about the finished plates? If I observe the usual washing procedure (at least 4 minutes) and then varnish them, are they safe to handle without gloves?
    What do you think is toxic in wetplates? Nothing is really. Collodion was used to bind wounds in hospitals. The salts can be simple potassium and ammonium iodides which are safe. Silver Nitrate was administered to infants at birth. Developer is iron and vinegar. It's all about as toxic as the household cleaning supplies most people have in their bathrooms. It's not like it's radioactive or anything.

  4. #4
    Unwitting Thread Killer Ari's Avatar
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    Re: handling precautions?

    Maybe not toxic, but silver nitrate can blind you if it gets into your eyes. Nobody wants that.
    I've rubbed my eyes by accident with dried silver nitrate on them, so far no problems.
    I also try to wash away the silver on my skin with fixer, but it doesn't really work well.
    So I tell myself that by washing skin with fixer, I've at least "neutralized" the harmful effects of the silver.

  5. #5
    Foamer
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    Re: handling precautions?

    Be very careful about not touching your face at all when doing wet plate, especially after handling a silvered plate. I do have to touch my camera wearing the gloves that have silver on them, and some rubs off onto the wood. I am careful to wipe it all off when I'm done. I've also waxed the wood with micro wax which seems to be protecting it. Other than that just be sure to rinse off your hands when you're done fixing. I also rinse my hands when the plate is in the stop bath, to remove any developer. I always get silver nitrate stains on my hands a often a few spots on my arms but it just wears off. When I get it on my wrist and the thin skin on my forearm it will itch if I don't wash it off quickly.


    Kent in SD
    Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris,
    miserere nobis.

  6. #6
    Tin Can's Avatar
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    Re: handling precautions?

    as a lifelong grease monkey, I am very good at not touching my face with filthy hands

    but also wash my hands every hour when working

    i have/had plenty of nitrile gloves, masks of all kinds, face shields, tight coverage googles, etc years before our...
    sin eater

  7. #7

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    Re: handling precautions?

    Yep, when I pour bleach in the laundry room, I'm careful with my eyes too. Or checking the specific gravity of car batteries. Or spraying Lysol or ant killer...or ....

    If people don't know not to splash silver nitrate in their eyes, well, I guess they should read up more on doing wetplate before finding a large format forum, discovering a wetplate section, and asking an open ended question about safety. Everybody knows that. Don't touch the flame of an alcohol lamp if you use that for drying varnished plates either.

    These hand wringing posts show up from time to time about wetplate. Usually from Europeans for some reason.

  8. #8
    Unwitting Thread Killer Ari's Avatar
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    Re: handling precautions?

    Quote Originally Posted by goamules View Post
    These hand wringing posts show up from time to time about wetplate. Usually from Europeans for some reason.
    I'd have just gone with "ignore and move on" and not some gratuitous attack on someone's nationality.
    Casting the first stone and such.

  9. #9

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    Re: handling precautions?

    Quote Originally Posted by goamules View Post
    What do you think is toxic in wetplates?
    Silver Nitrate and Cadmium Bromide are some examples.

  10. #10
    Tin Can's Avatar
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    Re: handling precautions?

    even too much water can kill

    remember the water drinking contests

    know your enemy and tread softly, paraphrased from 'Sun Tzu Know thy enemy'
    sin eater

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