Back to Ganoksin | FAQ | Contact

Lapidary Masks


#1

Recently I did a trawl of 3M’s website to discover which types of
respiratory masks might provide protection in shops full of quartz
and other silica-laden dust. Apparently the fine dust from electric
rock saws and cutting machines is what causes silicosis, lodging in
the lung tissues like microscopic razor blades.

3M seemed to have a variety of suitable masks, from the small
quarter-face cup-like nose and mouth masks, to half- and full-face
respirators with snap-on pairs of disposable filters. Whatever type
is used, it apparently has to fit snugly so that air cannot enter
from around the sides of the mask.

My question is, does anyone on this list have some actual experience
using any of these things in dusty, hot lapidary workshop
conditions? The few times I’ve used any sort of dust mask, the
temptation to loosen it up to let in more air was nearly
overwhelming - only the thought of what I might be breathing in kept
it on my face (as did inspections afterwards to see all the stuff
that had been filtered out - yikes!). And how do you determine the
dust level in the air, to decide whether a small mask is sufficient,
or whether the 1.5 micrograms/cubic meter threshhold has been
reached and the quarter- and half-face respirators are needed? And
how often do the masks/filters need raplacement? Daily? Weekly?
What?

The reason I ask is because of reports such as Deadly Dust

http://tinyurl.com/hjwxw

that document the appalling conditions in lapidary factories and
workshops in Hong Kong and Guangdong. Surely products exist that can
protect these workers? I.e., if one were to make a buying trip to
some factory or workshop, how could you determine whether any sort
of effective safety program was in place to protect the rock cutters
and carvers?

Staying tuned,
Chris


#2
My question is, does anyone on this list have some actual
experience using any of these things in dusty, hot lapidary
workshop conditions? 

Yes, sort of. I was a professional potter for 20-some years before
becoming a jewelry-maker. I always wore a mask when mixing powdered
minerals such as clays and glazes-- micro-fine particles of quartz
and silica, copper, cobalt, manganese, etc.

I always used a 3M particle mask with two cartridges, the kind that
makes you look, sound and feel like Darth Vadar. It takes getting
used to, but you will not actually suffocate. It is just a little
more work to breathe. I took care of my mother while she died from
emphysema, actually unable to breathe (from smoking, not silicosis),
so I’m more than willing to endure the temporary difficulty.

So hang in there, keep using a good mask, just get used to it, and
keep it snug. How often you need to change it depends on how bad the
conditions are when you use it, but the manufacturer’s instructions
should help you out on that.

One thing that potters tend to do, if they don’t really think about
it, is leave the mask just lying around in the studio when not in
use. Clearly, you don’t want dust settling on the back of the
mask, where you will immediately suck it into your lungs when you
put it on. So keep it in a bag, box, or other dust-tight container
when you don’t need it.

Happy breathing!
Noel


#3

Great comment, Noel!

Keeping your mask (that includes the disposable ones as well) in a
plastic bag or food storage container will increase the useful life.
3M brought up that little tidbit at SNAG last year and it was a duh
kind of moment, at least for me

And on the subject of clean air, would someone like to recommend a
dust collection unit? Just starting to look around at the
possibilities for a model which will collect at the bench and is
relatively quiet. It would be light duty. We use a collector cabinet
for the buffing machine which is in close proximity but even with a
filter it spews dust everywhere and it would be great to improve that
situation.

The soldering ventilation system is a 1/3 HP squirrel cage at the
ceiling which terminates in a steel cabinet that is closed on 3 sides
and has really great draw, and I am wondering if there is some way to
combine the functions of the 1/3 HP motor so that it will pull from
the bench as well. That would require some sort of filtered bag for
the particulates and a Y connector. Any suggestions?

Probably Charles has written a paper I should search for…


#4
We use a collector cabinet for the buffing machine which is in
close proximity but even with a filter it spews dust everywhere and
it would be great to improve that situation.

Have you tried really cleaning out the collector cabinet and the
filter? Vacuuming the interior, dusting off the fan blades, changing
the filter, etc. If it’s spewing dust, something is clogged or it’s
all filled up.

Dee.


#5

Hello Susan,

We use a collector cabinet for the buffing machine which is in
close proximity but even with a filter it spews dust
everywhere

That shouldn’t happen. Something’s not quite right. Check the filter
and its fit. All it takes is a little play in the fit or a gap, and
air would take the path of least resistance, carrying the dust with
it. Maybe the gasket in the lid is not sealing. Could be several
things like that. Try putting a lighted flashlight in the chamber
behind the filter, and looking for “light leakage.” Horrors, is it
possible that the fan is reversed?

I love my buffing machine and filtered power exhaust. Only one
complaint and I’ll send it in a new message.

Judy in Kansas


#6

To all —

Handler/Red wing offers various dust collection units with multiple
station capabilities, ducting, etc.

I.J.S. carries their goods. Perhaps routing the air past trap bags
en route to the outdoors would help health, plus gather precious
metal dusts? Maybe even wood sawdust units would work.

Dan Woodard, I.J.S.