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Worried about lead in solder. Again.
Worried about lead in solder. Again.
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Old 30th July 2010, 05:00 PM   #1
bigwill is offline bigwill  United Kingdom
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Unhappy Worried about lead in solder. Again.

I'm always careful to wash my hands after soldering, as well as keeping solder related paraphernalia away from kitchen utensils and food, anything like that.

Today I noticed how much it's possible to actually get on your hands, in fact if you rub a piece of solder onto your finger it leaves a dark silvery deposit - very worrying! Not sure how I've never noticed this, because I've done a lot of soldering over the few years I've been into DIY. Even worse is the process of unblocking a solder sucker, you inevitably end up with the same deposit on your hands

I wash my hands thoroughly but occasionally a tiny bit of greyness remains (mostly because I've had to empty the solder sucker, rubbish contraptions really), in the past I've probably mistaken this for the lubricant in the sucker but maybe it is actually solder If that's the case I've eaten with a tiny bit left on my hands (although it's bound to have been in the microgram range)

You don't really hear about EEs getting lead poisoning so maybe a bit of lead on your hands isn't THAT bad if you wash it off? Fishing weights or air rifle pellets are far worse for leaving deposits on your hands (as well as being entirely lead) and I bet loads of fishermen have handled them and had their sandwiches right after!

Please tell me I'm worrying excessively, I really don't want to get lead poisoning, especially since I love playing with electronics so much!
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Old 30th July 2010, 05:22 PM   #2
Dr_EM is offline Dr_EM  United Kingdom
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I've not noticed this deposit on my hands having used typical 60/40, I always wash afterwards with pump soap and water anyway.

I think if you're worried a simple solution is to wear latex surgical gloves while soldering, on the solder feed hand anyhow. Not too expensive, can probably be re-used lots of times for this, just don't put them on inside out by mistake!
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Old 30th July 2010, 05:25 PM   #3
bigwill is offline bigwill  United Kingdom
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Originally Posted by Dr.EM View Post
I've not noticed this deposit on my hands having used typical 60/40, I always wash afterwards with pump soap and water anyway.
It doesn't appear with normal handling, but it was something I noticed after feeding solder through my finger and thumb
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Old 30th July 2010, 05:34 PM   #4
LeonvB is offline LeonvB  Netherlands
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I'm curious: why don't you use leadfree solder? Almost all components are ROHS compliant anyway, plus it's not that hard to use. When I ordered tips I just made sure they were capable of handling the higher temperature and it works really, really well.
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Old 30th July 2010, 05:45 PM   #5
Mooly is offline Mooly  United Kingdom
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Worried about lead in solder. Again.
I'm still here after years of handling the stuff as a repair tech fumes and all
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Old 30th July 2010, 05:53 PM   #6
PH104 is offline PH104  United States
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Worried about lead in solder. Again.
check this
The use of sweat to monitor lead absorption throug... [Sci Total Environ. 1988] - PubMed result

Doesn't seem like a real concern..........
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Old 30th July 2010, 06:08 PM   #7
zdavesf is offline zdavesf  Canada
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My 65 year old boss constently tells me stories of how he used to chew on lead solder and use his mouth as a "Third hand"... hes still alive. As mentioned if you are that worried then upgrade your iron if you have to and get lead free solder, laytex gloves couldnt hurt. make sure your room is well ventilated. I just built a new home with a 6" movable exhaust fan going to the outside... yes I customized my work lab, 3 seperate electrtical branches so if i blow a breaker i dont wreck anything else.

we all have to start somewhere...
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Old 30th July 2010, 07:08 PM   #8
Andrew Eckhardt is offline Andrew Eckhardt  United States
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What I noticed is that lead free solder chews tips, the best of them, and if it isn't the metals, the fluxes used aren't any more fun to inhale. The buzz is different, but not any more fun. As a result of the tip problem, I use a regular 25 watt iron with a 16p nail press-fit into the heater, filed to a blunt pencil tip. The holder for that iron has an aluminum flashing shroud to trap the heat, and it gets plenty hot for the solder but the steel tip limits application to mainly SMD without thermal traces. This is OK, because that's all I really use it for. I use steel wool to clean the tip, and since 2006 when I got my first roll of SN96.5 AG3 CU.5 with 275 flux, the tip is still in perfect shape. Steel wool had been used to clean solder irons of all types for ages, but with the steel tip and lead free solder, there's no worry about tip wear or highly toxic solder particles all over the place. It is, however, fairly messy. It's a lot cleaner if you make a small box to put the steel wool into and periodically empty it out over a trash can once in a while. Number 0 steel wool works well enough.

For heavy connections, slightly dirty connections, or those likely to get re-worked a lot, you can't beat tin/lead. I still have rolls of all different fluxes and a few different brands. If I have to work in an enclosed area and need tin/lead solder I go for the Kester 44 flux. Some of the stuff Ersin makes will scramble your mind for a day or two if you sniff too much of it. I have a roll of .015" that I use for re-touching SMD's and if I get lazy and start using it for anything else indoors it puts me in a real bad mood and gives me difficulty thinking and a weird headache. I don't know if it has anything to do with impurities in the metal or the flux in it. I don't actually know what flux is in it because the label fell off long ago. I just know that stuff sucks.

Anyway, if you wash your hands and don't eat solder flakes and balls, the smoke from soldering is likely to give you the biggest trouble. I take everything outside unless I get deep into scope-time. After you get everything wired in and probed out it becomes impractical to take it outside for soldering. A vent hood would be most excellent. Just another project I've never completed.

Last edited by Andrew Eckhardt; 30th July 2010 at 07:13 PM.
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Old 30th July 2010, 07:08 PM   #9
AndrewT is offline AndrewT  Scotland
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children are particularly susceptible to lead poisoning. It's something to do with the process of growing and the way it affect connections in the young brain.
Adults are much more tolerant, but there must be a limit.

The combination of adulthood tolerance and adulthood practice (no fingers/bits of interest in the mouth) makes lead poisoning almost a nil problem.
ROHS was probably never needed.
Lead free gasoline was probably never needed.

I wish the reporting done by our press could be less biased when dealing with green issues. That is our problem!
regards Andrew T.
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Old 30th July 2010, 08:04 PM   #10
RicY is offline RicY  Latvia
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When I solder with the traditional 60/40 solder, I use to drink a glass of milk after the sodlering and of course wash the hands. But if I am soldering intense for more than 1 hour and a half, i take a break and drink the glass of milk after about an hour.

But im not really scared of using Lead solder anyways.
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