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Photographic Processing Hazards

Follow these guidelines to protect yourself from photographic processing and developing hazards.

A wide variety of chemicals are used for photo and X-ray processing. Their hazardous properties range from highly alkaline to corrosive and highly toxic.

See detailed information:

Evaluate the hazards before beginning work.

  • Consult safety resources:
    • Safety Data Sheet (SDS) Sources (formerly called Material Safety Data Sheet)
      • Post SDSs for chemical products, developer, and fixer near all processors, unless the containers are completely labeled and easy to read.
      • SDSs must be current and vendor and product-specific.
    • Photographic Processing Hazards (PDF), by Michael McCann, Ph.D., CIH. This material provides information on the following topics:
      • Black and white photographic processing
      • Mixing photochemicals
      • Developing baths
      • Stop baths and fixer
      • Intensifiers and reducers
      • Toners
      • Hazards and precautions
      • Color processing and developing baths
      • Bleaching, fixing, and other steps
  • Review the operating manual before using any photo processing equipment.
  • Know the contact information for your vendor in case of problems.

Follow these training guidelines.

Required: A principal investigator (PI), supervisor, or a knowledgeable designee must provide appropriate safety training for work involving photographic processing equipment and chemicals.

  • Inform users about about the safe use of photographic processing equipment and chemicals, their specific hazards, and possible health effects.
  • Explain possible routes of exposure, as appropriate:
    • Inhalation
    • Skin absorption
    • Eye exposure
  • Provide personal protective equipment and engineering controls, and train employees in their proper use.
  • Keep training records on file, including:
    • Information covered
    • Date
    • Names
    • Employee signatures

Be prepared for accidental spills.

Follow these storage guidelines.

  • Label all containers with required information:
    • Name of the material
    • Warnings
    • Date, when appropriate
    • Preparer's initials
  • Read Chemical Compatibility Guidelines and follow guidelines appropriate for your processing chemicals.
  • Storage requirements:
    • Do not store photographic solutions in glass containers.
    • Do not over fill containers.
    • Store and use photographic processing equipment in well-ventilated locations.
    • Never store photographic processing equipment in corridors or administrative spaces.
    • Keep processing equipment clean, dry, and free of contamination. Moisture, chemicals, strong cleaning agents, and other substances can promote corrosion.
  • Follow manufacturer recommendations for equipment maintenance and cleaning.

Track service by outside vendors.

  • Keep a service log near equipment maintained by an outside vendor. Record this information:
    • Service dates and type of service performed
    • Cartridge replacement and removal dates
    • Hazardous waste removal dates

Control the hazards.

  • Required engineering controls:
    • Use photographic processing equipment and chemicals in designated research space only to ensure adequate ventilation.
  • Required personal protective equipment (PPE):
    • Lab coat with sleeves fully extended to the wrists
    • Safety glasses
    • Gloves (select a material compatible with the chemicals involved)
    • Protective apron when mixing concentrated photochemicals
    • Full-length pants
    • Closed-toe shoes
    Follow these PPE guidelines:
    • Always double-check your PPE before working with photochemicals.
    • Never re-use disposable gloves.
    • Leave all personal protective equipment in the lab when your work is complete.

Act quickly if an exposure occurs.

Give first aid treatment, then seek medical attention immediately for any and all photochemical exposures. Treat any exposure seriously, no matter how slight it may seem at the moment.

  • Ingestion: Seek medical attention immediately.
  • Skin exposure: Flush exposed skin with water for at least 15 minutes while removing any contaminated clothing.
  • Eye exposure: Flush eyes with water for at least 15 minutes. Affected individuals may need help holding their eyes open under water. Seek medical attention immediately at an emergency room.
  • For all exposures:
    • Seek medical attention immediately at an emergency room.
    • Call Police at (858) 534-4357 (534-HELP) and request an ambulance if transportation is necessary.
    • Call the Poison Control System, (800) 222-1222, if additional information is needed.

Dispose of waste properly.

  • Make sure cartridges in processors using chemical recovery are dated with the installation, and are changed out to meet silver removal requirements.
  • Read How to Dispose of Photo and X-ray Processor Waste for proper disposal of waste, including spent silver-rich fixer, developer solutions, and other processing materials.
Questions? Contact the EH&S Chemical Hygiene Officer.
Notice: Disposal of hazardous waste using sinks, intentional evaporation, or as regular trash is against the law. Campus laboratories must abide by strict state and federal waste disposal requirements. You may be held liable for violations of applicable laws.