ABC of Safety in the Biological Sciences




Darkroom workers, such as photographers, electron microscope technologists and radiographers are at risk of becoming sensitised to the chemicals used in the photographic process. In some instances permanent damage to the throat and respiratory system has occured.59

Darkroom disease, resulting from prolonged exposure to photographic chemicals is a collection of symptoms and includes allergic reactions, dermatitis, asthma, painful ears, sore throat, sore eyes, hoarseness, painful joints, facial palsy, tremor, nausea, tinnitus, severe headaches, heart arrhythmia's, extreme fatigue and immobilisation in severe cases.60-63

The chemicals used in photographic processing include acetic acid, diethylene glycol, hydroquinone, potassium hydroxide, glutaraldehyde, aluminium chloride, ammonium thiosulphate, potassium carbonate, potassium bromide, sodium sulphite, sodium metabisulphite, ethylenediamine tetraacetic acid (EDTA) and sodium tetraborate.64

Staff who work in darkrooms should wear appropriate protective clothing. This should include a long-sleeved laboratory coat or gown with elasticized wrist bands, rubber gloves (PVC) when mixing chemicals, and safety goggles.65 A general spill product or kit and a respirator should be available in case of chemical spill. The darkroom should contain eyewash facilities and a safety shower. Chemicals should not be discarded into the sewer as many are environmentally hazardous, but stored in drums for suitable disposal (usually by commercial contractor in a high temperature incinerator equipped with an afterburner and scrubber). Air in darkrooms should be completely changed every 3 minutes. Chemical baths should be contained beneath fume extraction units.59-65



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