The chemical fumes include:
nail polish (they use it as an acid resist)
acetone (to scrub off the nail polish after copper plating)
copper sulfate (don’t know if this releases fumes when exposed to the
acids during plating)
I’m breathing this stuff every time I go to work for these folks.
There is no venting. All fo this stuff is in their basement. There
are acid-filled tubs used for the copper plating process in rows,
with lids that just lie loosely on top. Furthermore, they apparently
do not have a neutralizing step between the acid bath and polishing -
they scrub off the nail polish in acetone, rinse, and give to me to
polish. Some of these things are hollow and still smell strongly of
acid when I get them, I assume its mostly acid that has not rinsed
out of the interior.
I am experiencing peeling skin, hair breakage, unexplained bruising,
and a cough within 24 hours of working in this environment. While
polishing, I wear a surgical mask, goggles, and a hat to keep the
crap out of my hair (which doesn’t work as well as one might hope).
I wear rubber gloves while lacquering. There is no other safety gear
used during any other time.
I suspect acid residue mixed with buff fluff (which layers my
exposed arms and gets under my shirt sleeves) is the cause of the
peeling skin, which peels in patches. Bruising and peeling skin
occur on my upper arms. I wear gloves during the polishing because
the copper plated statues get very hot while polishing, so there is
no noticeable effect to the skin on my hands, only my arms (whether
exposed or where it gets up under the sleeves).
The other day the rubber gloves I was wearing for lacquering blew
out and I got this lacquer all over my hand. It burned. I had to
scrub it off with the toothbrush I’m supposed to use for cleaning the
polishing compound off these things. It did not leave any visible
marks, but it burned until I got it all scrubbed off. Could acid
residue from the interior of the hollow pieces get into the lacquer
when you dip the pieces? I’ve never had lacquer burn when it got on
my skin before. Also managed to splash some of this stuff into my
mouth by accident and that wasn’t fun either (dropped a large piece
into the lacquer which splashed onto my face).
So am I being a wimp, or am I right to be concerned about the
chemical stew I’m swimming in? It doesn’t seem to be affecting the
macaw upstairs, and birds are usually VERY sensitive to fumes.