Back to Ganoksin | FAQ | Contact

Jewelry Industry Pollution--thoughts

Out of curiosity, how large were the firms? (how many employees?)
although bureaucrats are by nature conservative and at times
reactionary, this apparent focus on the little pollution jewellery
manufacturing puts out is i believe an exercise in distraction: 2
firms in one building out of 35-40 buildings isn’t bad eh? also, to
my mind, it means someone complained and/or slipped up…there is
always an untold story behind every article, and bureaucrats are
expert at telling only as much as will make look good as many people
as possible (in particular themselves)…i’ve seen it first hand as i
work for a municipality! while there may be further investigation, i
would think that most jewellers are by nature safe and cautious
people (handling almost 2000 degree heat up close and precisely to
boot)…my only concern would be if the local epa doesn’t make
allowances for equipment upgrades (at which point, they should be
rewarded with a wholly different article in the paper!)
my nickel’s worth (5 cents Canadian = 3 cents?) erhard.

In response to the two letters posted today regarding the Los Angeles
Times article on jewelry manufacturing pollution I am going to answer
some of the issues raised. The building which was ordered to shut
down was home to 130 jewelry firms, but the article stated that the
closure was attributable to measurements taken in just two firms. (
There was mention of another building which was not cited as having
450 jewelry businesses and 3000 workers !) As for the heavy metals
mentioned in the article the following examples were listed: cadmium,
chromium, lead, copper, nickel,silver and zinc. It also mentioned
that the metals were the product of furnaces and grinding, polishing
and sanding operations. Personally, I was unaware of the toxicity of
silver, but all the other metals have always been construed to be
toxic to some degree. If, indeed, toxicity is going to be measured in
billionths we are all in deep do do…as are many other businesses.
I buy the L.A. Times off the newstands on the days that we are open
for business and, since we are closed two days per week I will have
missed some issues. If any of you live in the L.A. area and take the
Times I would greatly appreciate knowing about any follow-up articles
on the subject. Since I used to manage corporate headquarters
buildings in the downtown Los Angeles area I can’t help but wonder if
there were a hidden agenda in this scenario. Downtown real estate is
extremely valuable, but most of it is occupied by 10 to 14 story
relics that were constructed in the twenties and thirties. Many of
them are occupied by light manufacturing entities. Most of these
employ immigrants. These tens of thousands workers attract low end
retailers. Need I go on…?

Ron at Mills Gem, Los Osos, CA.

Actually, When I was on the road selling Jewelry Equipment and
supplies Many years ago, one of the things that most often caught my
eye …specifically in large buildings that had a multitude of
Jewelers who offered all sorts of services was this…

Most of them did Bombing ( cyanide/hydrogen peroxide) and most of
them did it in the sink , then simply dumped the mixture down the
drains… No safety equipment, no exhaust hoods, no cyanide destruct
system being used or even in place… Those who did have the cyanide
destruct systems most of the time did not use them unless it was a
large load of gold they were doing. I was appalled at what I saw and
tried to inform those who were doing it that there were safe ways of
doing this process… it all fell on deaf ears !!!

Many places had polishing departments with inadequate / badly
maintained dust collectors… and most did not have any kind of hoods
/ventilation for their soldering stations. Some people who had
vibratory machines were dumping the sludge down the drains …

After having seen this personally, I can understand how the EPA might
decide to look into this.

It does cost money , material and a fair amount of labor to build and
maintain these type of systems and many small shops do not take the
time and effort to follow through with proper disposal of dangerous
materials as it can be very expensive and time consuming.Maintenance
of equipment is also lacking and for those who work in these
conditions often do not know better or do not wish to speak up for
fear of loosing their jobs.

What normally sets off the inspectors is when they do a periodic
waste water test in one of the sewage areas near a large building
that has a lot of jewelry/stores/small manufacturers and contractors
in the building. From this test, they are capabale of determining
what metals are in the waste water. The biggest problem is small to
large quantities of silver ( parts/million) in the waste water… the
silver then gets transfered through the sewage lines to the main
sewage plants and this small amount of silver destroys the chemistry
they use to clean up the water… hence causing them a very big
problem and as a result, inspectors start looking for the problem

My personal advice to all who make jewelry is to make sure that no
matter what process you plan on using in your manufacturing, you also
learn about safe collection and disposal … and only buy the
equipment that you can afford the treatment for… In otherwords, if
you do vibratory finishing, then you must also have a safe method to
recuperate the sludge you generate and send it to a refiner if it has
gold and silver in it… even if it becomes a break even proposition
to have it refined …or , find out how to dispose of it legally.

At my shop, we do a lot of casting and finishing and have developed
methods for recovering all the investment… reusing all the waste
water that we use for this process as well. What we do is put heavy
duty plastic bags in a 5 gallon pail and fill it 3/4 with water. when
we break out our investment in this bucket, we continue to break out
until it is all used investment… the excess water is transfered to
another pre-prepared bucket as we work. ( we actually have 10
prepared buckets to work with).When a bucket is nearly full of
investment,After having sifoned off the water into another bucket, we
then take an old newspaper , make it round and stuff it into the
investment. This acts as a wick and dries the investment very quickly.
When it is dry, we can now lift out the plastic bag full of dry
investment and put it in the dumpster. Investment is not harmful in
its dry , solid form and is legal to dump dry. It is not legal to
dump wet! Using 5 gallon plastic buckets is so that it is easy to lift
the bag out when it is dry . Too many people in the industry use 55
gallon drums, then have to have an employee work for 1/2 day emptying
the drum into small bags to dump… and then , they are doing it
illegally as the material is still wet!! A 5 gallon bucket is quick
and efficient to use .

Best wishes to all, Daniel Grandi We do casting /finishing in
gold,silver, brass,bronze and pewter for people in the trade.