Friday, 18 March 2011

Staying Safe - Recycled Crafts and Vintage objects

I recently had the urge to make some Steampunk jewellery using old and recycled watch and clock parts. Like anything that I make, I looked into any potential dangers with using the materials and came across a startling discovery.

The problem is with the phosphorescent compound coated on many old vintage watches. The compound contains Radium and was used to coat the watch faces and hands so that they would glow in the dark. The radiation from the Radium coated watch faces has the potential to cause serious health risks and the problem doesn't stop at the watch face and hands...Over time the paint breaks down and will become very dusty and it is important not to breathe any of this dust. This dust can in turn contaminate the work area and the watch mechanism itself.

Recycled Watch Parts
If you are interested in reading more about the risks and history of working with luminous watch dials please the following website. The website also includes a link to an article about the Radium Girls who used to paint the watch hands and dials. They were instructed to point their brushes with their lips when their brushes lost their shape!

http://www.midwestcs.com/elgin/help/luminous_dials.html

Hopefully I am not scaremongering but it is extremely important as crafters that we stay safe and any items that we sell to others are safe for them. We need to be aware when dealing with recycled and vintage objects that we understand what materials were originally used and any potential hazards with them. This can be anything from old watch parts used in jewellery to the paint used on old wooden items and fire risks associated with recycled fabric.

Let’s face it, at the time many vintage items were made without knowledge of the potential health and safety risks associated with them. We are more aware of these risks today and anything that we buy ‘new’ would have had to pass health and safety assessments.

Personally and as recently advised by a Steampunk forum, I am going to borrow or invest in a Geiger counter to eliminate any radiation risks and will certainly wear a dust mask when handling old watch parts in the future.

12 comments:

  1. oh my goodness - that never occurred to me!

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  2. Nor me...amazing (and worrying) isn't it!

    Mick

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  3. Very, very interesting. Enough to scare the living daylights out of you, but nevertheless, extremely important info.

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  4. I'd certainly thought about metal allergies when vintage parts are used as, no way can they be compliant with nickel laws etc. But it just shows you there are other considerations too! I'm forunate I don't use anything vintage!

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  5. Wow, what scary stuff! Like CJ, I am so pleased I don't work with vintage stuff - there is so much to think about and much that probably wouldn't even cross your mind!

    Great blog post, Mick!

    Ali x

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  6. Thanks Ali, we take a lot for granted these days in that new items we buy 'should' be safe. However anybody who works with vintage items needs to consider that the same safety regulations etc probably weren't around then.

    Mick

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  7. Wow! Thanks Mick. It had never occured to me despite the fact I knew about the radium girls
    Gemxxx

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  8. Very interesting post Mick, and food for thought to be sure.

    Lynda

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  9. Really useful information, thank you. I had read about the health risks for the workers who made them but I didn't associate that with people using vintage parts for crafts.

    Excellent post.

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  10. Oh my, glad I've seen your post. Something else I'll have to invest in before I go all steampunk then

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  11. Not sure how many Steampunkers go as far as testing watch parts...having said that not sure how many realise the potential problems.

    Mick

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