Workspace Safety: Jewelry Makers and COPD February 27 2015

Today's sad passing of Leonard Nimoy from COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases) affords an opportunity for hazard awareness for jewelers and fiber artists.

While Nimoy attributed his COPD from having been a smoker in his youth, jewelers and fiber artists are also risk groups for developing COPD. For silversmiths/goldsmiths like myself:

- the solders we use may produce toxic fumes (cadmium, found in many gold solders, is extraordinarily toxic);
- the flux and pickle we use are so acidic that the fumes alone are capable of eating through steel in a matter of weeks; and
- our buffing wheels and compounds produce dangerous irritants.

I've been taking the opportunity today to consult with fume extraction system and ventilation system manufacturers. They've been extraordinarily helpful in customizing a system, based on the Material Safety Data Sheets from the materials I use. I also recently added a cadmium-level test to my regular checkup routine.

Jewelers: as your business scales larger and you spend more and more time at your workbench, don't forget to scale up your work-safety measures, as well!

I'd love to hear what kind of systems other artists are using to make sure they live long and prosper. :)