Ventilation is an aspect of lampworking that doesn’t get discussed enough and is a very important component to lampworking safety.
Fumes form when the surface of glass is strongly heated in a flame. Although the amount of material volatilized in flameworking is smaller than when the glass is originally batched and melted, the exposure times can be long, so good exhaust is important in flameworking. All soft glass colors are giving off some amount of hazardous fumes when melted, which mix with the fumes of the burning fuels that are used to power a lampworking torch and this should be addressed by every lampworker who is melting glass.
There are an ever growing number of highly silvered 104 C.O.E. boutique glass colors available on the market these days and I think it is very important to understand the hazards of using these products in an improperly vented environment. Using these silvered glass colors in a flame, you are liberating the metal fumes that give these glass colors their remarkable characteristics which are very similar to doing fuming with gold or silver. Gold and silver fuming in a lampworking flame is a highly toxic working situation and should never be done in an environment that is not properly vented.
Good exhaust is needed for every lampworking station. The draft should be away from you, and cooling air should not disrupt the air flow of the exhaust. A smoke test is a simple way to verify that air flows are correct. To do a smoke test to check the effectiveness of a venting system involves lighting a combustible substance that produces enough smoke to allow you to view the speed and amount of air flow through the venting system being tested. The smoke should be aggressively drawn directly into the venting system without rolling back into the lampworkers face.
If you currently do not have a venting system or you need to improve the system that you have, there is a free venting tutorial available through Andrea Guarino-Slemmons website. Click Here to access this tutorial.
Andrea’s husband Whit Slemmons designed this inexpensive and relatively easy to assemble venting system and made it available to the lampworking community because proper venting for lampworking is so important.
When you access this venting information, you will notice that the opening for the vent is in front of the torch instead of overhead like a kitchen vent. The reason for this placement is the fact that an overhead hood venting system doesn’t draw the fumes directly away from the lampworker, but circulates the fumes at the lampworker before drawing the fumes up the vent. These circulating fumes are exposing the lampworker to the accumulative hazards of heat liberated fumes and burn fuels.
If you have ever wondered about your venting system, this the time to deal with it.