Prioritizing Studio Safety Hazards

Q: I’m trying to prioritize the safety hazards of my jewelry studio. What’s more dangerous, being near electromagnetic fields from electrical lines, vacuuming up spilled jewelry investment, or exposure to the germs that lurk in my studio’s bathroom?

A: The levels of electromagnetic fields we’re exposed to in our normal studios are very mild, and present no risk that anyone has been able to reliably demonstrate. It’s useful to remember that the earth itself generates such a field, and there is electromagnetic radiation from the sun and the universe itself. It may be, however, a question of intensity. While I’ve no qualms living around and working with normal levels as usually found, I’d have some second thoughts about, say, building my home directly under the high tension lines leaving a power generating plant, and I don’t think I’d want to mount a permanently on large Tesla coil in my bedroom for the cool effects either. Being able to light a fluorescent tube just by picking it up, without other electrical connections is just not high on my list of things I want to do all the time (grin).

If you don’t have a HEPA filter on the vacuum, then it is more dangerous to clean it up that way than with a mop. But investment before it’s mixed up is less dangerous that after you’ve fired the flask. I’ve heard that its most dangerous form is what’s released when you quench a flask. The aerosol of steam and powder is too small in particle size to see floating in the air, but after firing, those particles are especially dangerous, perhaps more so than the sometimes larger amounts put into the air when you first mix the investment. Since silica in the lungs IS cumulative, I’d say you simply cannot be too careful with the stuff. But on the other hand, careful is not the same as paranoid. One must live ones life too, not spend it constantly worrying. So the answer is to educate oourselves about the materials we use, and their risks, then take the suitable precautions as best we can, and simply get on with it all. Obsessing about it won’t improve ones safety, and is hard on ones creativity.

As for the bathroom, we live in an evironment filled with germs, and our systems have become exquisitely capable of dealing with them. In fact the constant presence of the things may help keep our immune systems properly tuned up. For germs, I don’t worry about my own house. I worry about what I come into contact with out in public, where other people may bring me into contact with a variety of bugs that I might not yet be tuned up for. But again, common sense rules, not paranoia. And for dangers, back to the kitchen sink, I’d guess the most dangerous stuff there is in the bottles of varous cleaning agents stored under that sink, not the germs and stuff in the area, though some unusual molds may be an exception to that. Oh, and I’d also point out that there may be some cases where exposure to certain microbes is indeed a cumulative risk. Some people believe that some autoimmune disorders (such as diabetes) are triggered by multiple exposures to some such sensitizing agent. The first exposure sets up an immune response, the second or some subsequent exposure cause an over-reaction. Some allergic responses also work this way.

by Peter W. Rowe M.F.A., G.G.