Ventilating Your Jewelry-Making Lab

While jewelry-making may seem like a low-risk activity, it actually involves dangerous chemicals and acid-rich materials. Jewelry makers who utilize silver soldering, welding, epoxy resins, solvents, sanding, polishing chemicals, electroplating, and many other forms of art should be aware of the respiratory hazards involved. Fumes and debris are often a standard by-product of jewelry-making processes, from bead-making to metal-working.

Because of the toxic fumes, good ventilation is a must. Whether you work in a commercial setting or in-house shop, a fume hood that effectively captures airborne pollutants before they are able to disperse into the room is incredibly important. Adequate ventilation can be expensive, but the benefit to your lungs cannot be overlooked.

Why do I need ventilation?

Ventilation removes noxious materials, dust and fumes that can damage your lungs. Ventilation of fumes and particulate matter are essential for all jewelers and anyone whose work creates chemical fumes.

Many jewelry makers depend on dilution ventilation, which is where you open a window next to you, and another one elsewhere so that air passes you on its way out. However, this is not an effective method of ventilation. You don’t want the air and noxious materials to pass by your face before leaving.

You should have a fan with enough pull to drag the fumes away from you. A hood helps to focus the suction and helps to keep the fumes within the vicinity of the fan. The closer you are to a hood opening, the more effective it is.

Where to place a fume hood in a jewelry laboratory

Fume hoods should be positioned near the back of a workshop, so that in the case of an accident, the exits aren’t blocked. There should also be enough space in front of it so that the personnel working in the studio don’t interfere with the air flow by passing directly in front of it. When the fume hood is in use, minimize foot traffic near the face opening. Also, avoid making fast movements when taking items in and out of the hood and don’t direct any other ventilation toward it, such as portable fans or HVAC ductwork. These conditions will disrupt the airflow and create unwanted air currents that may allow contaminants to leave the hood and cause unwanted exposures, reducing its effectiveness. 

The hood can be vented through a window, a wall, or through the ceiling. It’s important that the fume hood is set up correctly so that the vented air is removed completely and not immediately sucked back into the building by an incorrectly placed makeup intake duct. 

When air is removed from the workspace, it then has to be made up from somewhere else. Usually, a duct is placed a safe distance away from the ventilation exit point. It is important to ensure that your make-up air is not bringing in exhaust fumes, and is not downwind from a chimney that is putting out toxic fumes. Make sure that you don’t create negative pressure in a basement workshop by venting so much air out that it causes air to be sucked into the space through a water heater or furnace exhaust vent- this backflow can fill your workspace with poisonous carbon monoxide gas.

Venting the air outside can also cause heating and cooling problems for the workspace. The most effective way to ensure proper ventilation and manage utility costs is to reduce the amount of air that is handled and use it only when necessary. There are many ways to conserve the amount of energy a fume hood uses, such as turning off the occupancy switch and keeping the sash closed when the hood isn’t in use. For local ventilation, a low-volume and high-air-speed fume hood is very effective.

National Laboratory Sales is a full-service fume hood and lab furniture supplier. Whether you’re building a new lab or upgrading your existing one, you’ll find a remarkable selection of casework and fume hoods.

If you’re looking for a fume hood for your jewelry-making endeavors, browse our selection or contact Kyle at (815) 670-6400.