Lead oxide dust

Hi All,

I know there are many queries on the subject of cleaning led oxide off of blighted type, and I’ve read all of them. We were recently given many cases of lead type, and to my dismay, many of them have lead oxide on them (the white dust). Some are very bad. Many can probably be saved. My boss is very concerned, however, that in moving the type into the building, that lead dust was knocked out of the cases and spread throughout the space. In her concern, she’s talked to lead remediation specialists, etc.. They’ve told her that we need to buy a special vacuum for lead ($200) and special respirators that are rated for lead (#10, I believe). I’ve also been forbidden from entering the space for fear that I might kick up lead dust and inhale it. I haven’t found anything on this forum expressing that amount of concern. My thought was that I could wear a mask or respirator and clean the salvageable type with lye or borax, and then soak and scrub the drawers. My question is, how safe do I need to be considering that about half of the type has oxide on it? I know that when the type isn’t oxidized, it’s stable and barring eating the type, it’s not safe, but what of dust that’s fallen in the space? I’m trying to calm my boss down, but also be safe. She was told that normal respirators don’t protect against lead, and that normal vacuum cleaners will kick up too much dust and not filter out the bad stuff. I have experience in letterpress, she does not. I appreciate her concern, but I don’t want to spend a fortune unless it’s really necessary.

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First of all take no offense to what I am saying.
In my Opinion, I haven’t died from lead poisoning and for 30 years I handle lead bare handed. On the Oxidation of lead, I have slowed it down buy using silicone, actually spraying it on the type. Dust is a normal thing.
Now as far as for her making a big deal of things. Anyone in the business of selling the equipment to handle hazardous material surely will say its a hazardous situation, and if she buys it “hook line and sinker” she will go broke buying the equipment.
I would bet, you won’t find anyone here that uses a respirator. If they do their going overboard.
Why spend the time cleaning it, just stop the Oxidation “silicone” and only clean what you use. A simple brush and type wash, takes it right off.
I have to laugh at some of the things I read on here and this one goes overboard with out saying.

I wonder what would be said about my ludlow or a lino type, there are many flakes and dust from it.

People don’t die from lead poisoning, from handling lead or being around it like they do with working in a coal mine and getting black lung.

I feel your pain.

I guess it all depends on how furry the type really is. if it’s a light dusting, it’s not a big deal. If it’s great white furry balls, then you might consider disposing of it….. but you probably don’t need to spend a pile of money on a lead abattement specialist.

while lead dust should indeed be taken seriously, it’s not as terrible as a consultant would lead you to believe. it’s not kryptonite or DDT or nuclear waste. I’ve been working around lead for decades now. I just had a blood-lead level test, and mine is far below the threshold of what is considered problematic, even by our new paranoid set of guidelines. (my cloresterol and A1C are pretty good, too!)

to answer your question: yes you can save the type that only has a light dusting of oxide, but the really furry ones should be disposed of…. since the printing surface is certainly going to have been corroded anyway.

to allieviate your boss’s concerns, go to the hardware store and get some lead-test strips, and check the “contamination levels” in the room. unless someone blew it around with compressed-air (which you should not do) then your room is probably just fine. The test strips will tell you this.

So…. to clean the type which can be saved, I’d go get a 3m respirator with a HEPA filter (which can be had at most hardware stores), some rubber gloves, and a few buckets….. and just wash the type with soap and water.

Just don’t send the washwater down the drain. Leave it in the bucket to evaporate out, and then bring the bucket to your local recyclers / hazardous houshold chemical disposal place.

One thing to be sure to do is wash up well before eating or drinking.

now… about the really furry type: put it into big plastic bags, and send it straight away to the recyclers, OR give it to someone who casts bullets or fishing weights. ( Oh yeah…. wear your gloves and a respirator while packing it.)

A bigger problem is going to be the type drawers. IF you aren’t overly environmentally concerned you can bring them out to the back yard and just scrub ‘em up. Unfortunately, that’s probably illegal and might not be a good idea. I think i’d ditch the cruddy ones, and then (while wearing your gloves and respirator) wipe the less cruddy ones clean with damp rags…. disposing of the rags as mentioned above.

BUT…. there is one thing to NOT do, ever, EVER. Don’t use an air compressor to “blow the dust out”. Vaccuum cleaners are also not a good idea since they can indeed blow the dust around.

While it does seem scary, if you take the proper precautions it shouldn’t pose too much of hazard.

one final note: magnesium and zinc also corrode to furry white messes, but are not considered to be as hazardous. IF any of your type is mounted on wood blocks, they are probably not lead….. so they are not a big deal.