Lead (Pb) safety in average hobby use ?

Thread Starter

DarthVolta

Joined Jan 27, 2015
111
I'm sure in the early days lots of people would eat lunch and supper on their work bench while using nice Sn-Pb solder. I do the same but I shouldn't, how bad is it really, how much Lead contamination is there on the average hobby bench ?

How are the old timers of electronics doing, did they suffer any noticeable effects as a group from Lead or burning flux ??

I need a lab that's not also my living room.
 

MrChips

Joined Oct 2, 2009
19,270
Lead poisoning is a serious matter.

Having said that, I question the toxicity of lead while doing routine soldering with Sn/Pb solder.
If you are concerned with the flux vapour, you can install a fume extractor over your soldering station.
 

Thread Starter

DarthVolta

Joined Jan 27, 2015
111
Old Fishermen that used pure lead weights must have been exposed way more than us I hope.


IDK how Pb toxicity works, but I should relax, I don't solder much anyways.
 

AlbertHall

Joined Jun 4, 2014
8,330
When I started working in electronics, when Noah was a lad, we had a room full of people soldering with lead and flux and fume extractors hadn't been invented. I don't know of anyone being harmed. I suspect that the flux is more of a problem in that situation as it can sensitise you and make you allergic then you can no longer work with, or near, flux.

The lead is a problem when it goes into landfill and can contaminate the groundwater (and also when used for soldering water pipes).
 

DickCappels

Joined Aug 21, 2008
5,877
After nearly 50 years of soldering with tin-lead solder I do not recognize any effect if has had on me other than to be more careful about washing my hands before eating. One improvement along the way -in my 20's I stopped holding the solder in my teeth during delicate soldering tasks.
 

MrChips

Joined Oct 2, 2009
19,270
Lead can enter the body in different ways:
  • Ingestion (includes food sources)
  • Inhalation (breathing fumes)
  • Absorption (through contact)
It would not hurt to take common sense precautions.
  • Don't eat solder.
  • Don't put solder in your mouth.
  • Do wash your hands before consuming food.
And on a larger note, be conscious of what becomes of our e-waste.
 

Alec_t

Joined Sep 17, 2013
10,355
Young Nellie won't get any older
She failed to take heed when they told her
"You will finish up dead
From ingestion of lead.
When you're soldering, don't suck the solder!"
 

atferrari

Joined Jan 6, 2004
3,447
The effect of Pb, AFAIK, was noticed earlier on linotypists which were highly exposed to the fumes while typing for long periods.

I recall watching them in the local newspaper while composing the texts for the next day edition.

Heat, fumes and a crazy clicking noise all around.
 

jpanhalt

Joined Jan 18, 2008
7,876
The fumes from solder are due to the flux. The solder per se is not volatile in any appreciable amount at those temperatures. The issue that may be faced is sensitivity (allergy) to the flux fumes or pyrolysis of organics on the PCB. Asthmatics may be particularly prone if sensitized. Those effects are quickly noticed compared to lead toxicity that is expressed slowly in adults (children are more sensitive to lead's neurological effects on development). If you are not affected, I wouldn't worry.
 

Tonyr1084

Joined Sep 24, 2015
3,577
https://zippyfacts.com/how-is-handling-or-touching-lead-dangerous-and-why-is-lead-toxic-or-harmful-to-children/

In general, simply handling lead won't cause you any problems. However, washing your hands before you eat is not only good practice when handling lead it's also good practice when handling ANYTHING that can cause a body harm. Fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides, gasoline, motor oil - - - it's good to have clean hands when preparing and eating meals.

For adults, the hazards are lower. For children who are still developing - the hazards are higher for a number of reasons. Personally, I've stripped bullets of lead and melted it down to make my own fishing weights. I've soldered, or been around soldering processes since I was a 7 year old. But when young I didn't do a lot of soldering. But in my adult years I've been around lead for a good 35 years. Day ain't nuttin' wong wif me.
 

Ylli

Joined Nov 13, 2015
771
I fall into the same category of many of the above. Started building kits (knight kits, Heathkits, etc) when I was about 10. That was 55 years ago. Worked on the electronics bench doing a considerable amound of soldering for 45 years or so.

Ten, or perhaps 15 years ago, I got curious and had my doctor do a lead level on me. Don't remember the exact results, but do know it was well below any level of concern. .
 

dl324

Joined Mar 30, 2015
8,877
I'm more careful now than when I was younger, but I'm not in any way paranoid about lead poisoning from handling lead based solder. When I was a tech, I sometimes held solder with my lips to free up a hand for holding things. I was a nail biter for most of my life and usually didn't consider washing my hands before partaking.

I'm a little more cautious now and clean up solder debris from my solder sucker more frequently and put small pieces in a plastic bag for eventual disposal. Larger pieces are put in a bag that will eventually be used for making lead shot.

At normal soldering temperatures, fumes will be from flux, not lead. Personally, I like the smell of rosin based flux and don't find an occasional whiff objectionable. Though I generally hold my breath while soldering and don't have my face directly over whatever I'm soldering.
 

MrChips

Joined Oct 2, 2009
19,270
At normal soldering temperatures, fumes will be from flux, not lead. Personally, I like the smell of rosin based flux and don't find an occasional whiff objectionable. Though I generally hold my breath while soldering and don't have my face directly over whatever I'm soldering.
I still believe there is a market developing for cannabis-laced solder flux. There will be a lot of happy workers at soldering stations.:)
 

Tonyr1084

Joined Sep 24, 2015
3,577
I believe the reason why smoke always finds my face is because my body puts off heat. Heat rises and creates a draft. Smoke from nearby soldering wants to follow that convection of hot air. Since I'm usually facing the solder work - smoke in my face.
 

MisterBill2

Joined Jan 23, 2018
3,863
The lead used in soldering is not the problem, although it is indeed unwise to eat solder, or circuit boards built using lead-based solder. The lead that is almost always deadly is that that comes out of gun barrels. THAT lead is very hazardous to health. So it is important to be able to tell the difference between a soldering gun and a shooting-type of gun.
 

MaxHeadRoom

Joined Jul 18, 2013
19,014
In general, simply handling lead won't cause you any problems. However, washing your hands before you eat is not only good practice when handling lead it's also good practice when handling ANYTHING that can cause a body harm.
For many years White Lead was used in paint, (now banned), I did work at one plant that pressed RR wheels on to axles, they used white lead as a lubricant, there was a higher than average number of operators that died of cancer before they could retire.
It was also used for many years as a machining lubricant.
Max.
 

MisterBill2

Joined Jan 23, 2018
3,863
For many years White Lead was used in paint, (now banned), I did work at one plant that pressed RR wheels on to axles, they used white lead as a lubricant, there was a higher than average number of operators that died of cancer before they could retire.
It was also used for many years as a machining lubricant.
Max.
I don't recall that cancer is given as one of the hazards associated with lead. Could it have been something else associated with the casting or forging operations that was the culprit? Or perhaps the heavy smoking and the serious drinking after work? Or possibly the asbestos used in the casting molds?
 

Tonyr1084

Joined Sep 24, 2015
3,577
For many years White Lead was used in paint, (now banned), I did work at one plant that pressed RR wheels on to axles, they used white lead as a lubricant, there was a higher than average number of operators that died of cancer before they could retire....
Max.
Never heard of white lead. The lead in solder is mixed with tin, so it's much more stable and far less concerning for absorption through the skin or lips. Breathing fumes from soldering is not a common way for lead to become liberated and airborne. You'd have to really boil the tin/lead in order to get any kind of hazardous fumes (I'd think - I'm not the expert on the subject) (But that's my opinion and I'm sticking to it. Until someone can convince me otherwise. Then I'll change my opinion.)
 

Reloadron

Joined Jan 15, 2015
4,501
The lead used in soldering is not the problem, although it is indeed unwise to eat solder, or circuit boards built using lead-based solder. The lead that is almost always deadly is that that comes out of gun barrels. THAT lead is very hazardous to health. So it is important to be able to tell the difference between a soldering gun and a shooting-type of gun.
This really nails it quite well. I guess I was about 10 years old when I began soldering using 60/40 tin lead solder. So that was about 60 years ago. I have no clue how many lead fumes I inhaled. Mostly long before a "fume hood" was around and today's concerns about lead were non existent.

Now for the double down. About the same time I began my curiosity with electronics under the tutelage of my father and early mentor I also developed an interest in shooting which grew into reloading my own ammunition. The latter included casting and loading lead bullets as well as shooting them. Handle enough lead bullets and your hands were grey in color. No clue how much of that Lead can be absorbed into your body by inhalation (breathing) and ingestion (eating). Lead (except for certain organic lead compounds not covered by the standard, such as tetraethyl lead) is not absorbed through your skin.

The lead used in soldering is not the problem, although it is indeed unwise to eat solder, or circuit boards built using lead-based solder. The lead that is almost always deadly is that that comes out of gun barrels. THAT lead is very hazardous to health. So it is important to be able to tell the difference between a soldering gun and a shooting-type of gun.
Actually indoor shooting ranges are plagued by lead particulates they require high end air circulation by large air handlers because when lead bullets are fired tiny lead particulates are released as bullets exit barrels. You walk into a room (Range) with a cloud of smoke, do your self a favor and walk out.. I have had law enforcement range officers come up with high lead levels in their blood work. Those of us who reload frequently use a vibratory to clean our brass with the spent primers still in the brass. The primers give up Lead styphnate, whose name is derived from styphnic acid, is an explosive used as a component in primer and detonator mixtures for less sensitive secondary explosives. Lead styphnate is only slightly soluble in water and methanol.so now we have micro-particles of that floating around in the air we breath,

Good practice involves wearing Nitril Gloves and thoroughly washing up before and after any reloading or being at an indoor range with poor handlers. My primary care physician knows all my habits and every 6 months my physical includes blood work looking for blood work revealing any toxins, especially lead related.

Ron.
 
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