June 6, 2023

Soldering Emissions During Musical Instrument Repair

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Soldering Emissions During Musical Instrument Repair

For those who work in music production, recording, and live performance, metal instruments, and hardware are essential for creating, modifying, and enhancing musical sound. Whether it be a saxophone, synthesizer, or guitar effects pedal, all require soldering to bond their individual metal parts when they need repair. Without solder, hard-to-fuse metal pieces would not have structural integrity when attached. Solder is the glue that holds everything together.

Unfortunately, solder, like many substances used in manufacturing and repair, can do harm if indoor air quality measures are not employed.

What Is Solder, Exactly?

Solder is a meltable metallic alloy (commonly made of lead and tin) used to create a permanent bond between two or more non-fusible metal pieces. 

Soldering is the process of connecting two metal components together by melting a filler metal (solder) with a hot iron to create a strong assembly. Solder is designed to be conductive and has a low melting point to make it pliable enough to work with even the smallest electronic circuits.

What Types of Musical Hardware Applications Require It?

Obviously, the manufacturing of musical instruments and hardware are industries that rely heavily on soldering for producing solid, well-fabricated products. But so do businesses and individuals who specialize in repairing guitars, audio speakers, brass instruments, and the like.

For example, when repairing a guitar effects pedal, the metal filler (solder) used to join multiple electrical pieces together allows signals from the instrument to pass through the components in the effects pedal circuit. Similarly, when an instrument like a brass trumpet needs joint reinforcement or the reattachment of a valve or ring, the lower melting point of the solder filler ensures that damage will not occur to the brass, which has a higher melting point. 

How Does Soldering Negatively Affect IAQ?

As with any modern hot work, (defined by OSHA as “riveting, welding, flame cutting, or other fire or spark-producing operation”), soldering musical instruments and hardware, especially those made of brass or other metals, potentially compromises the air quality of the person performing the work. 

During the soldering process, materials are heated, producing soldering fumes that may contain VOCs (volatile organic compounds) or other harmful substances.

Fine particulate matter, such as metal oxide particles, can also be generated and released into the air. These emissions can become respiratory irritants in the short term or, after prolonged exposure, significant health problems.

Mild risks include diminished concentration, joint pain, allergic reactions, and eye, nose, and skin irritation. But exposure to toxic soldering fumes can pose more serious health threats, such as dizziness, confusion, and respiratory distress (such as chronic asthma), and should be avoided.

How to Prevent IAQ Risks from Soldering Fumes

In order to mitigate the potential negative effects of soldering, consider doing the following:

  1. Employ a thorough risk assessment to identify specific health hazards associated with your specific soldering application. 
  1. Wear personal protective equipment (PPE) such as a breathing mask, specially designed to filter out smoke and soldering fumes. 
  1. Ensure that control measures, such as proper ventilation, are in place for proper soldering fume extraction. Open windows, if necessary, to allow for proper air exchange. 
  1. But the best way to avoid inhaling soldering emissions is to install an air filtration unit, such as a fume extractor, that eliminates pollution at the source.

At AIRSInc, we serve our musical instrument and hardware repair customers by providing indoor air quality management solutions which include the use of our stellar air cleaning products such as our SP987-3 portable fume extractor

Call or contact us today for a free air quality assessment with one of our skilled and experienced indoor air filtration specialists.

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