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Art Restoration Solvents Could Cause Health Risks for Workers

Anyone who works in the art restoration industry knows that the work they perform takes a delicate touch and fumes or airborne contaminants from the chemicals used during this process could endanger not only the worker, but also the art.

Since certain pieces of artwork need to be preserved at the highest standard so the object, artifact or painting can last for as long as possible, art restorers must use different solvents and thinners to get pieces looking their best. According to Art Sparx, a solvent can break down paint and varnish components to successfully get colors and surfaces to look like they were just painted.

Dust, moisture, and other factors all can turn artwork into ruined or damaged pieces if they are not properly restored over the years. Eventually, artwork on any sort of canvas or paper will begin to lose its color without the right solvents, the source reported.

Art Restoration Solvents Can Cause Serious Side Effects

When solvents are exposed to the human body, such as on-hand and eyes or inhaled, serious health risks are a concern if the art restoration process is not performed in a well-controlled air environment. According to an article from L. Dei, P. Baglioni, and G. Sarti, titled “Aging Effects on Ammonium Carbonate/Acetone Solutions and Cleaning Works of Art,” ammonium carbonate solutions are the most popular methods to clean specific pieces of artwork.

“By applying this solution to the surface with cotton wool, wood pulp or paper poultices, it is possible to remove many kinds of dirt,’ for example, soot, present on works of art such as wall paintings, marble, and stone,” the report stated. “Generally speaking, cleaning with these aqueous solutions is not sufficient and restorers, therefore, use organic solvents to remove water-insoluble impurities.”

Even though these chemical solvents are used on a regular basis, the hazards of ammonium carbonate can cause eye and skin irritation, digestive tract irritation, and result in respiratory tract irritation as well, a material safety data sheet from Iowa State University reported.

To prevent these harmful contaminants from lingering in the air and harming art restorers, facilities need to invest in benchtop fume extractors to catch the hazardous airborne contaminants at the source. This equipment is ideal for anyone in the art restoration industry because it can fit most working spaces and helps remove harmful airborne particles from the workspace even if it’s a high-capacity facility.

Engine Exhaust Fumes Cause Indoor Air Quality Problems

Engine Exhaust Fumes Cause Indoor Air Quality Problems 1

Health Hazards for Auto and Aircraft Engine Workers

As long as there are people who wish to travel and move things from one place to another, fast and easy transportation will continue to be a necessity. Global air travel alone accounts for 44,000 flights a day. Add the number of all road vehicles in use and it equals a staggering number of engines from planes, cars, and trucks that are tested, maintained and repaired every day. We must protect workers from possible air quality problems stemming from engine exhaust.

It is no secret that fuel emissions are a major source of air pollution (1). Government agencies and private companies exert great effort in developing cleaner fuels, reducing smog, and strengthening emission standards to lessen the negative environmental impact on our planet. What about how they affect indoor air quality? Aircraft and automotive engine exhausts are major contributors to indoor air pollution in airplane hangars and vehicle repair workshops. Combustible substances abound and if not contained, carry the threat of fire and explosion. (2)

The danger of compromised indoor air quality is not limited to spontaneous combustion; there are occupational health risks, as well.

Harmful Emissions

Engine exhaust emissions do not materialize from one single source. There are thousands of varieties of molecules possible and millions of varying chemical combinations. Contaminants abound. Depending on the type of fuel and engine, carbon particles, soot, Benzene, PAHs, and VOCs (3, 4, 5) can escape into the air and make people sick.

Here is a list of some, but not all, of the elements found in gas, diesel, and jet fuels:

Gas Exhaust (6):

  • Carbon monoxide
  • Hydrocarbons (Benzene)
  • Sulphur dioxide
  • Soot

Diesel Exhaust (7):

  • Nitrogen
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Hydrogen
  • Carbon soot

Jet Fuel (8):

  • Kerosene
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Hydrocarbons
  • Nitrogen & sulfur oxides

When an engine burns fuel, it mixes with air to create a complex combination known commonly as exhaust. If air cleaning measures are not properly in place, these fine particles and gases become suspended in the air and enter a person’s breathing space. Workers who spend the majority of their waking hours in airplane hangars and automotive garages are literally walled in, breathing fumes emitted from running engines.

Protecting Workers From Exhaust Fumes

In the short term, directly inhaling large quantities of exhaust fumes may cause nausea, dizziness, and irritation of the eyes, nose and throat. These effects will usually go away after contact ends. But very high and/or prolonged exposure to exhaust fumes may cause ongoing health problems. Respiratory symptoms such as coughing, chest tightness, and difficulty breathing, particularly in persons who are naturally predisposed to or have a history of asthma or other lung problems, may not be reversible. (5) In addition, ultrafine particles from aircraft and diesel engine exhausts have proven to cause cancer, heart disease, blood clots, brain hemorrhage and airway diseases, thereby increasing the risk of serious work-related illnesses and premature deaths. (4)

Both the auto and aerospace manufacturing industries must comply with OSHA regulations and standards but often, the minimum standards are not enough to protect workers from harm. Failure to control exhaust at its source can turn deadly. Most employers do their part. But extra caution can mean a healthier, safer, and more productive workplace.

Beyond meeting minimum regulatory requirements, there are steps that can be taken to implement stricter internal standards to ensure worker safety. For example, products such as our exhaust blowers and fume extraction arms together provide a safe and easy means of removing harmful particulate matter and toxic fumes.

At AIR Systems, Inc., we serve our customers in the aircraft and auto industries by providing indoor air quality management solutions in addition to our stellar air-cleaning products. Contact us today for a free estimate from one of our highly skilled clean air specialists.