Studio safety – ventilation

I remember the first time I made beads under the watchful trained eye of Peter Viesnik. I was so hooked on the first go I couldn’t wait to buy my own studio kit. I was then introduced to Judith at Annie Rose, I walked into their amazing store and just wanted everything!

I couldn’t wait to buy my studio kit. Judith walked me through her setup in their teaching studio and showed me all the items I needed to set up my own studio. The great thing about buying my studio items from Judith and her team at Annie Rose was that I did not need to worry about the safety of my equipment. Judith had already had the controller and kiln tested and verified for use in new Zealand by an electrician, the pipes each had their flashback arrestors, all I needed was the bottles of gas an I’m ready to rock.

I went online and Goggled safety in a studio. I came across a number of blog posts suggesting that I needed to have a breeze in my studio to ensure the gas in the room was dispelled. I read that if I leave a door open, a window open and have a fan blowing from one to the other then all will be great. I’ll basically be creating a draft between the door and window with my fan, I’m ready to rock.

So being being excited about my new studio I switched on my fan and spent the whole day lampworking, maybe 6 hours at the torch. I started to feel a little weird, light headed and slightly nauseous, I turned off the torch, switched off the bottle and bled my lines, went inside to get a glass of water. within the next hour I developed a headache and felt quite lethargic. The headache got worse and worse I eventually maxed out the number of pills I could take but the headache would not dissipate. It stayed with me for almost two days and I was lethargic for close on a week.

The fact of the matter is a window, door and fan is not an adequate solution to ventilation. Ventilation is very important. If you are going to love your hobby or art then you’d better be sure it won’t make you sick. The first mistake I made was to not pay heed to which way the air way moving outside my studio or if the even was a breeze. Likely there was no air movement at all and the fan was ineffective as it was the sole source of moving 25 cubic meters of air. The second mistake I made was to not have my desk in the direct path of the breeze if any. The third major mistake I made was to assume that even if there was a breeze, the air was likely creating an eddie or pocket of gas being trapped where my desk was located.

I would suggest that if you have no manner in which you can extract the air directly above the flame of your torch you should not be lampworking. yes there will always be those who have no ventilation and have no known side effects but I have had personal experinec of being poisoned by my artform. I have also met others that have almost passed out at their torches beacuse of mixed fumes in their garage or have developed respiratory issues from the use of gas, glass and silver fuming.

I would say never underestimate the dangers associated with lack of ventilation.

So how does one ensure adequate ventilation?

You can purchase a ventilation system fro a reputable supplier, there are numerous benefits to this:

– A professional with the experience of climate control and movement of air has designed the unit
– The unit will have been inspected and signed off by relevant authorities for it’s sale
– In an insurance claim the unit that has been purchased through an authorised reseller will have a producers statement associated

Assuming you decide to install your own ventilation the good old kiwi number 8 wire way then you would need to consider the following:

– a range hood is only good if it has a decent motor, the motor and fan must be able to draw the noxious by product of your flame away from the torch. If the fan has to draw the air of an entire room it is unlikely to be effective. Ideally the range hood should only have to draw the air around your torch so it would be best to box it in around the space you work in, the smaller the volume of air the better the drawing of the range hood
– the range hood must be ported outside, you cannot use a range hood that just filters and circulates the existing air in the room
– ideally you should also have an extraction fan installed under the table as some of the combined gasses are heavier than air, it slips off the desk and accumulates on the floor
– your working space should not be in an area that could have combined fumes such as petrol

I myself spent a few thousand dollars on my ventilation after my experience and due to public liability. There is a great post online by Kristan Horne through NZGBA on her ventilation which I also view to be effective.

Finally, you are able to buy a product from gas companies that comes in a tube, you can release the tube contents which creates a smoke and fills the room; then put on your ventilation system and watch if there are any eddies that are being created where pockets of gas could collect.

The moral of this post is ventilation much be extraction, not an open window with a breeze. Safety first and you will be able to love glass beadmaking forever

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