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Threats To Darkroom Workers

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Sciences
Wordcount: 5357 words Published: 17th May 2017

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In terms of exposure to harmful chemicals, darkroom workers and hobbyists are often in a worse position than chemical workers. Darkroom workers, especially hobbyists, normally receive no training in the proper use of chemicals. Perhaps the main reason for this laxity is that photo chemicals are generally regarded as safe by the photographic community. Many photographers think that since most photo chemicals are diluted before use that the danger is low. But most photographers lack the knowledge necessary to make decisions about chemical exposure. This is shown in the lack of precautions that most photographers take; many immerse themselves, literally, in their solutions and advise their students to do the same.

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Contact with high levels of some photo chemicals can lead to acute problems such as burns, dermatitis, dizziness, vomiting, asphyxiation and central nervous system failure. Long-term, low-level exposure can result in chronic problems such as allergic reactions, headaches, depression, lung ailments and cancer. Individuals vary in their responses to chemicals; some are more susceptible to adverse reactions than others. Reactions also depend on the concentrations of the chemicals and the conditions under which they are used.

“The greatest danger to darkroom workers and hobbyists is through the inhalation of powders or vapors. Additionally, most chemicals in the darkroom are liquids in open trays or tanks which increases the chance for spills. Absorption through the skin is also easy if the photographer routinely handles chemical-covered films or prints. Most darkroom workers seem to rely on the rule of thumb “if I can tolerate the odor, the ventilation is adequate.” But there are dangers from inoffensive chemicals that aren’t offensive: what you can’t smell CAN hurt you!” www.subclub.org/darkroom/safety.htm


The Trinidad and Tobago Police Service or TTPS is the law enforcement agency of Trinidad and Tobago and has been in operation for over 200 years. One of the specialization within the Service was the introduction of plain-clothes officers in 1862 to assist in crime fighting during. Included in this section is the Photography department one of the specialist section whose function is to photograph the scene of crimes, serious accidents and any material relating to the commission of a crime or incident. This includes the photographing of fingerprints and questioned documents in order to preserve evidence of value in the process of crime investigation or presentation before the courts. Persons coming into custody of the Police and those participating in riots and demonstrations are also photographed for evidence of infractions of the law. These highly trained officers gain their expertise by participating in courses provided by senior officers and at international agencies.


This study focuses on the Hazards associated with the photography department in the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service. No research was found on the topic in Trinidad and Tobago, however, international agencies, such as the University of Florida and Kodak International and other agencies have put systems in place to protect photographers, darkroom enthusiast and other persons from hazards that they may encounter in the dark rooms.

Dark Rooms are an official part of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service. They are used for developing images after processing scenes of crimes. The crime scene is photographed to record a vivid understanding of what the scene looked like and to record items of possible evidence. Crime scene photographs are normally taken in two groupings, overall views and items of evidence. http://www.feinc.net/cs-proc.

Photographers play an important role in the entire Police service of Trinidad and Tobago. Most of the work is carried out in a Photographic Lab which is commonly called the “Dark Room”. The photographer, or more specifically the crime scene photographer, must know how to create an acceptable image that is capable of withstanding challenges in court. These photographs are seen by Judges, Magistrates, Lawyers and Jurors, fellow officers and witnesses. It is commonly said that “a picture paints a thousand words”, however, the technical aspects are unknown to our fellow Officers and other Civilian members. The Police photographer operates in the front line and the greatest feats are spent behind the scenes. Photographers are not taken seriously as everyone now owns a camera and play the role of amateur photographers; they are further disrespected by being called “photo take outers”. The assumption is they click away and wolla photograph appears like magic.

There are numerous hazards associated with dark rooms and wet photography.

Photography uses three basic chemicals in the processing of light sensitive materials. The first chemical is called Developer. The developer detects changes in the silver salt in the emulsion of the film or paper and turns those that have been struck by light into metallic silver. The second chemical is stop bath and is used to stop the developer from working any longer. Plain water is sometimes used for this step. The final chemical is fixer. It fixes the film or paper so that it is no longer sensitive to light. It dissolve the unexposed silver salt from the light sensitive emulsion while leaving the metalic silver in tact. Fixer will, however, bleach the metalic silver if left in contact for a long enough period of time. Finally wash the emulsion to remove the dissolved unexposed silver salt as well as all the fixer residue. Chemical Safety scphoto.com/html/chemicals.html

It is noted that persons working in the department today and persons who have worked in the department before are not made aware of some of the chemical composition and their hazards. Long hours are spent in the lab with the pungent odour. The author will examine the systems in place to effectively minimize and control the inhalation of chemicals.


This research provides for an investigation into the reasons, why the Police Photographers are not sensitized to the hazards and risks they are prone to daily. What the effects of the various hazards pose when they are not prepared; and what makes them most vulnerable than their peers.

The photography department consists of Forty four persons inclucive of men and women Police officers whose services are shared throughout the country inclusive of Tobago Division. They are also called upon to provide service by the various branches and sections within the Police Service. The photography department of the Northern Division has an office space which measures 6 feet by 13 feet in size, and contains three office desks a refrigerator, two filing cabinets and one overhead cupboard. The dark room area measures 6 feet by 9 feet, has a counter 4½ feet in height by 3 feet in length, a sink, a photographic enlarger and two filing cabinets.

The dark room is situated nearby (at the back of the office), this area is where the negatives and the printing of photographs are done. The close proximity of the dark room where chemicals are being used emits a pungent odour into the office area. The photographer’s work in the scented office over a long period of time as such, they are immune to the scent. A vague awareness becomes evident when other fellow officers visit the office and remarks are made about the scent to which the photographers are oblivious to. The hazards and risk of injuries can be attributed to a number of factors such as:

Physical hazards

Injury, as a result of accidental contact, spillage, or inhalation of darkroom chemicals.

Slips, trips, and falls, cramped spaces, surfaces made slippery by spilled liquids and the movement of heavy tripod.

Chemical hazards

Exposure to a wide variety of photographic chemicals and their vapours and fumes


Eye strain as a result of moving frequently from the dark or semi-dark into strong light.

Increase in crimes means frequent visits to crime scenes which in turn, mean long hours in the “dark room”. The officers have not yet experienced any major disaster or injury, however; subtle changes have been noticed, mentioned and simply brushed aside.

This study is appropriate to generate findings which should result in the implementation of Administrative and Engineering Controls. The Police Photography Department is of paramount importance, it is imperative that the working conditions and the health and safety of the photographers be looked into. Section 6 (1) – (12) of the OSH Act 2006 “it shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the safety and health and welfare at work of all his employees.’

1.2 AIMS

To determine the risks and hazards associated with working in the Police Photography Laboratory in Trinidad and Tobago.


The objective of this study is to determine the following:

To determine the level of volatile organic compounds present in the working environment.

To determine the adverse health effects associated with exposure to the VOC’s

To ascertain whether there are systems in place to deal with exposures and disposal of chemicals.

To determine compliance with OSH Act of No 3 of 2006 and compare other legislations and regulations.


A research was conducted in order to obtain the literature on the relevant title

Questionnaires will be distributed within the department as it relates to the project

Multirae tester will be used to measure the Voc, Ammonia Sulpha Dioxide and Oxygen levels.


Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects. Concentrations of many VOCs are consistently higher indoors (up to ten times higher) than outdoors. VOCs are emitted by a wide array of products numbering in the thousands. Examples include: paints and lacquers, paint strippers, cleaning supplies, pesticides, building materials and furnishings, office equipment such as copiers and printers, correction fluids and carbonless copy paper, graphics and craft materials including glues and adhesives, permanent markers, and photographic solutions. www.epa.gov/iaq/voc.html

Toxicity of substances

Toxicity is the ability of a substance to produce injury once it reaches a site on or in the body. The degree or harmful effect which a substance can have depends on the inherent harmful properties and the route and speed of entry in the body. Exposure may be short term (acute effect) or after long or repeated exposure (chronic effect). (Holt, St John Allan)

What makes the substance toxic is the quantity, concentration, duration of exposure, the physical state of the material its affinity for human tissue and sensitivity to attack human tissue or organs.

Routes of entry

How do hazardous agents get into the body?

The diagram of the human body below illustrates the effects when it is exposed to the outside world through a variety of surfaces. These include the skin, lungs, nose, mouth and the digestive, urinary, and genital tracts. Hazardous agents (e.g. chemicals and micro-organisms such as bacteria and viruses) can get into the body through any of these surfaces. The most common routes of entry are:

(a) through the lungs (inhalation)

(b) through the skin (absorption)

(c) through the mouth (ingestion).




Health Effects

There are several factors from Particulate Matter that contribute to adverse health effect s. According to World Health Organization (WHO) PM affects more people than any other pollutant. The major components of PM are sulfate, nitrates, ammonia, sodium chloride, carbon, mineral dust and water. It consists of a complex mixture of solid and liquid particles of organic and inorganic substances suspended in the air. The particles are identified according to their aerodynamic diameter, as either PM10 (particles with an aerodynamic diameter smaller than 10 µm) or PM2.5 (aerodynamic diameter smaller than 2.5 µm). The latter are more dangerous since, when inhaled, they may reach the peripheral regions of the bronchioles, and interfere with gas exchange inside the lungs. www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs313/en/index.html

The Environmental Protection Agency discusses the ability of organic chemicals to cause health effects varies greatly from those that are highly toxic, to those with no known health effect. As with other pollutants, the extent and nature of the health effect will depend on many factors including level of exposure and length of time exposed. Eye and respiratory tract irritation, headaches, dizziness, visual disorders, and memory impairment are among the immediate symptoms that some people have experienced soon after exposure to some organics… Many organic compounds are known to cause cancer in animals; some are suspected of causing, or are known to cause, cancer in humans. Eye, nose, and throat irritation; headaches, loss of coordination, nausea; damage to liver, kidney, and central nervous system. Key signs or symptoms associated with exposure to VOCs include conjunctival irritation, nose and throat discomfort, headache, allergic skin reaction, dyspnea, declines in serum cholinesterase levels, nausea, emesis, epistaxis, fatigue, dizziness. http://www.epa.gov/iaq/voc.html

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The following are recommend revised limits for the concentration of selected air pollutants on Particulate matter from WHO 2005 Air Quality Guidelines :

Guideline values


10 μg/m3 annual mean

25 μg/m3 24-hour mean


20 μg/m3 annual mean

50 μg/m3 24-hour mean

Ozone (O3)

Guideline values


100 μg/m3 8-hour mean

The previously recommended limit, which was fixed at 120 μg/m3 8-hour mean, has been reduced to 100 μg/m3 based on recent conclusive associations between daily mortality and ozone levels occurring at ozone concentrations below 120 µg/m3.

Nitrogen dioxide (NO2)

Guideline values


40 μg/m3 annual mean

200 μg/m3 1-hour mean

The current WHO guideline value of 40 µg/m3 (annual mean) set to protect the public from the health effects of gaseous NO2 remains unchanged from the level recommended in the previous AQGs.

Sulfur dioxide (SO2)

Guideline values


20 μg/m3 24-hour mean

500 μg/m3 10-minute mean

A SO2 concentration of 500 µg/m3 should not be exceeded over average periods of 10 minutes duration. Studies indicate that a proportion of people with asthma experience changes in pulmonary function and respiratory symptoms after periods of exposure to SO2 as short as 10 min


The airborne exposure limits established by OSHA include: Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL): The allowable limit that is representative of a worker’s exposure, averaged over an 8-hour day.

Short-term Exposure Limit (STEL): The allowable limit that is representative of a worker’s exposure, averaged over 15 minutes.

ACGIH is a professional organization whose members work within the government or academia. This organization annually publishes a booklet entitled Threshold Limit Values (TLVs) for Chemical Substances and Physical Agents and

Biological Exposure Indices (BEIs). ACGIH TLVs are exposure guidelines and do not have the effect of law. These values change in response to new data and are usually more rapidly updated than OSHA limits.The Threshold Limit Value (TLV) refers to airborne concentrations of substances and represents conditions under which it is believed that nearly all workers may be repeatedly exposed day after day without adverse health effects.

The ACGIH TLVs include: Threshold Limit Value-Time- Weighted Average (TLV-TWA): The time-weighted average concentration for a normal 8-hour workday and a 40- hour work week, to which nearly all workers may be repeatedly exposed, day after day, without adverse effect. http://www.hse.gov.uk/coshh/oel.pdf

Disposal of Chemicals

According to the University of Florida disposal procedures of darkrooms photo chemicals with a pH of less than or equal to 2 or greater than or equal to 12.5 can be disposed of down the drain. Therefore, developer (alkaline) and stop bath (acidic) may be combined in a container (with good ventilation) to neutralize the solutions (pH 7) and make it nonhazardous. Then the combined solution can be disposed of down the sink. Fixers cannot be placed down the sink because of silver and other heavy metals content. These chemicals can be combined into one container and must have a Hazardous Waste Label on it. All unused, concentrated photographic materials must be handled by EH&S as a hazardous waste. Photographers should never put any hazardous (or even potentially hazardous) materials down the drain without explicit permission

According to Michael McCann the disposal of old or unused concentrated photographic chemical solutions, developer, stop baths, fixing baths, and other solutions should be treated as hazardous waste. To dispose of photographic wastes, label them with a hazardous waste tag, store them in secondary containment and submit a waste pickup request. Fixers contain some silver, which must be treated or recovered before it can be disposed of. There are two options available for recycling this material: Have a commercial company service your photographic needs (typically keeping your developer and fixer stocked and your waste removed), or have EH&S collect the waste. EH&S is permitted to treat. It is important to remember that when handling fixers, developer, or other photographic products that proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) be worn at all times.

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Kodak literature on Disposal of Processing Wastes guidelines are to direct discharge of untreated processing effluents to receiving water, or to surface drains or storm sewers that discharge directly to receiving waters, is not recommended or lawful. Septic tanks are biological systems, but are not recommended for disposal of photographic processing wastes. Septic tanks may not degrade wastes sufficiently. They are generally designed for small volumes, produce odorous products, cannot be installed in all locations, and may contaminate ground waters. Aerated lagoons have been used successfully by some processors to pre-treat their wastes to lower the oxygen demand before discharging them into a municipal treatment system.

The University of Florida, Michael McCann and Kodak Literature in their research all agreed that photochemical disposal should be treated as hazardous waste. Hazardous waste or even potentially hazardous materials should never be poured down the drain. The University of Florida labels the hazardous waste and Contacts the Environmental Health and Safety Department who is permitted to treat hazardous waste. Both, The University of Florida and Michael McCann suggest the services of the EH&S department. Kodak in their findings suggests an aerated lagoon.

Hazard pictograms GHS

The following labels are found on the packages of the fixer, and developers.For the labelling based on the Regulation (EC) No 1272/2008 (CLP Regulation, GHS), the following hazard pictograms have to be used according to the classification of the substances or preparations (mixtures).


Pictogram GHS05 Symbol: corrosion

Hazard class and hazard category

Corrosive to metals, hazard category 1

Skin corrosion, hazard categories 1A, 1B, 1C

Serious eye damage, hazard category 1


Pictogram GHS06 Symbol: skull and crossbones

Hazard class and hazard category


Pictogram GHS09 Symbol: environment

Hazard class and hazard category

Hazardous to the aquatic environment

– Acute hazard category 1

– Chronic hazard categories 1, 2 http://www.bag.admin.ch

3.0 Hierachy of Control Measures

“While systems of control should be as effective as it is practicable to make them, it

is desirable to have some guide to which the efficiency of control can be related …

For each substance a figure of concentration in atmosphere is given. If this

concentration is exceeded, further action is necessary to achieve satisfactory

working conditions” (MoL, 1960) Author’s emphasis {pg 12} http://www.hse.gov.uk/coshh/oel.pdf

The following control measures should be utilize to reduce exposure levels to (as low as reasonable practicable ) ALARP

3.1 1. Elimination

The best way to control a hazard is to eliminate it and remove the danger. This can be done by changing a work process in a way that will get rid of a hazard; substituting a non-toxic chemical for a toxic substance; having workers perform tasks at ground level rather than working at heights.

2. Substitution

The second best way to control a hazard is to substitute something else in its place that would be non-hazardous or less hazardous to workers. For example, a non-toxic (or less toxic) chemical could be substituted for a hazardous one.

Isolation and enclosure of the process can be achieved by the use of physical barriers, or by relocation of processes and/or facilities.

Local exhaust Ventilation (LEV is achieved by trapping the contaminant close to its source, and removing it directly by purpose – built ventilation prior to its entry into the breathing zone of the operator or the atmosphere.

LEV have four parts: Hood, Ducting, Air purifying device eg charcoal filtrs to prevent further pollution and Fans to move air through the system.

The efficiency of LEV is affected by draughts capture hood design and dimensions, air velocityachieved and distance of capture point from source.

General or Dilution Ventilation uses natural air movement through open doors or assisted ventilation by roof fans, or blowers to dilute the contaminant. It should only be considered if;

There is a small quantity of contaminant.

The contaminant is produced uniformly in the area.

The contaminant material is of low toxicity.

Housekeeping lessens the likelihood of accidental contact with a contaminant. It includes measures to anticipate and handle spillages and leaks of materials, and minimize quantities in open use.

Reduced exposure time to a contaminant may be appropriate, provided that the possible harmful effect of the dose rate is taken into account, i.e high levels of exposure for short periods of time may be damaging.

Training should emphasise the importance of using the control measures provided, and give an explanation of the nature of the hazard which may be present together with the precautions which individuals need to take.

Personal Protective Equipment and Clothing may be used where it is possible to reduce the risk of injury sufficiently using the above control strategies. In that case suitable protective equipment must be used.





gloves give your hands protection lab coat to protect your clothing …condrenrails.com

According to literature from Hawaii art photography 2006 handout, which deals with safe and healthful Dark room practices, states that the hazards of the Developer and the Fixer are skin and eye irritants. They can cause allergic reaction and allergic sensitivity, especially hazardous in the stock mixing stage. The precautions given are: To mix stock solutions wear goggles, gloves and respirator or dust mask. Use gloves when mixing working solutions. Avoid skin contact with powders and solution. Concentrate is highly toxic by skin contact, inhalation or ingestion. Continued inhalation of working solution can cause severe sinusitis and bronchitis. http://www.hawaii.edu

In the literature from Photographic Processing Hazards by Michael McCann, Ph.D., C.I.H states that the Developer solutions and powders are often highly alkaline, and glacial acetic acid, used in making the stop bath, is also corrosive by skin contact, inhalation and ingestion.

Developer powders are highly toxic by inhalation and moderately toxic by skin contact, due to the alkali and developers themselves. The developers may cause methemoglobinemia, an acute anaemia resulting from converting the iron of haemoglobin into a form that cannot transport oxygen. Fatalities and severe poisonings have resulted from ingestion of concentrated developer solutions. The precautions are to use liquid chemistry whenever possible, rather than mixing developing powders. Pregnant women, in particular, should not be exposed to powdered developer. When mixing powdered developers, use a glove box (a cardboard box with glass or plexiglas top, and two holes in the sides for hands and arms), local exhaust ventilation, or wear a NIOSH-approved toxic dust respirator. In any case, there should be dilution ventilation (e.g. window exhaust fan) if no local exhaust ventilation is provided. Wear gloves, goggles and protective apron when mixing concentrated photo chemicals. An eyewash fountain and emergency shower facilities should be available. Fixing baths contain sodium thiosulphate (“hypo”) as the fixing agent, and sodium sulphite and sodium bisulphite as a preservative. Fixing baths also may also contain alum (potassium aluminium sulphate) as a hardener and boric acid as a buffer. www.trueart.info/photography.htm

The University of Florida literature on photographic materials; safety issues and procedures outlines that the developer solutions and powders are often highly alkaline and are moderately to highly toxic. They are also sources of the most common health problems in photography; skin disorders and allergies. Developers are skin and eye irritants and many are strong allergic sensitizers. Some common ingredients in developers are hydroquinone and sodium sulphite. Hydroquinone can cause de pigmentation and eye injury after five or more years of repeated exposure, it is also a mutagen. Sodium sulphite decomposes to produce sulphur dioxide (a toxic gas), when heated or allowed to stand for a long time in water or acid. Precautions are to ensure good ventilation of the darkroom. At least, 10 air changes per hour. Wear gloves and goggles. If a splash occurs, flush affected areas (15-20 minutes for eyes) immediately with water using an eyewash or safety shower. Solutions are should be covered when not in use to prevent evaporation or release of toxic vapours and gases. Fixer contains sodium thiosulphate, sodium sulphite and sodium bisulphite. It may also contain potassium aluminium sulphate as a hardener and boric acid as a buffer. Fixer solutions slowly release sulphur dioxide gas as they age. However, when these solutions are contaminated with acid from the stop bath, the gas sulphur dioxide is released at a more rapid rate. http://www.ehs.ufl.edu

The use of Personal Protective Equipment is of great importance to the three institutions. The researchers found in their findings and agreed that the Developer and Fixer that is used in the photography lab are highly toxic and are skin and eye irritants. They all emphasize goggles and gloves, eye wash fountains and emergency showers. Michael McCann included the use of an apron while mixing chemicals. Michael McCann and the University of Florida go in-depth into the various chemical compositions and the danger they pose. There was a slight variation on the type of ventilation system which should be installed; however, the important factor here is that one should be place. He also added information on mixing powdered developers in a glove box. Precautions given are to wear goggles, gloves and respirator or dust mask.

According to Kodak guidelines on the safe handling of processing chemicals, all chemicals have MSDS. MSDSs are provided for customers for all photographic processing chemicals which are clearly outlined: Photographic processing facilities are required by OSHA to have MSDSs for all hazardous chemicals.

MSDSs provide detailed information about each product. Information included in MSDSs is outlined in the following categories:

• chemical and manufacturer identification

• composition/ingredients

• hazard identification

• first-aid measures

• fire-fighting measures

• accidental release measures

• handling and storage

The University of Florida outlines storage handling and general housekeeping which is documented in the updated MSDS on all chemicals used in the developing of film. These sheets must be kept in a binder and be available at all times. Keep the darkroom and other work areas uncluttered and eliminate trip hazards by not storing items on the floor. Wet and dry areas should be clearly separated. Liquid chemicals are to be stored off the floor, by compatibility and below shoulder height. Do not eat, smoke or drink in the storage room, darkroom or studio. The darkroom should be well ventilated with 10 to 20 air changes per hour. Using a pre-made liquid developer is safer than mixing powdered developers. If powdered chemicals must be mixed, do so in a fume hood or glove box. All darkrooms should have eyewash stations that connect to the water supply and use “hands-free” operation. Pregnant women, in particular, should not be exposed to powdered developer. Store concentrated acids and other corrosive chemicals on low shelves so as to reduce the chance of face or eye damage in case of breakage and splashing.

Kodak literature on photo chemicals safety, storage and general housekeeping alerts DO NOT store chemicals where you handle or store food. DO NOT eat, drink, or smoke in chemical-handling areas. Always wash your hands thoroughly after handling chemicals, especially before eating or drinking. Store corrosive materials away from any materials with which they may react, and away from other incompatible materials. See the stability and reactivity section on the MSDS for more information.

The researcher found that The University of Florida notes that pregnant women, in particular, should not be exposed to powdered developers. Michael McCann also noted this hazard of the developer in his findi


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