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Photo Processing Contaminants

For most photographers, digital photography has become the medium of choice and convenience.  Still, traditional photography offers a range of special effects and other advantages not yet available with digital.  Traditional darkroom techniques are thus still taught and used at most universities and high schools. Ellis was recently retained to conduct an environmental assessment of an operating photo processing lab at a major university in LA County.  Existing material safety data was first reviewed.  Air and surface samples were then collected and analyzed for the following contaminants:


  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
  • Carbon Dioxide, Carbon Monoxide
  • Ultra-Fine Dust Particles
  • Particulates (PM10) and nuisance dust
  • Mold and Fungal Spores

 Surface Dust

 Title 22 Metals, including lead, barium, zinc and silver

  • Petroleum hydrocarbons associated with oils, exhaust and lubricants

With one exception, concentrations of all constituents listed above were found to be at or below normal background levels.  The exception:  Title 22 metals, in particular barium, zinc, copper, and chromium.  These trace metals were found at elevated levels in surface dust.  Following the study, Ellis provided recommendations to (a) revise procedures for the storage, mixing and use of metal-containing processing chemicals, and (b) improve cleaning and housekeeping procedures to avoid the migration of contaminants to the outside environment.