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RR900 - Visualisation and control of solder fume exposure - A quantitative assessment of LEV effectiveness

Colophony or Rosin Based Solder Flux Fume is a known cause of occupational asthma and as such exposure to it should be controlled. An effective method of engineering exposure control is to use local exhaust ventilation (LEV) to extract the fume at source. Personal exposure to solder fume was quantitatively measured in the breathing zone of a manikin, these exposures were then compared to those caused by uncontrolled soldering in order to assess five different LEV systems. The five LEV systems tested were a downdraught bench; an extracted bench top enclosure, a mobile capturing hood, an on-tip extraction system and a bench top fume absorber.

It was found that even a moderate amount of soldering when uncontrolled caused exposures over 50 times greater than the 8-hour Workplace Exposure Limit of 0.05 mgm-3 and over 30 times greater than the 15-minute Short Term Exposure Limit of 0.15 mgm-3. It was found that all five LEV systems were capable of reducing exposure to zero if used correctly. Each system had distinct advantages and disadvantages that make their use more or less suitable in various situations.

This report and the work it describes were funded by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Its contents, including any opinions and/or conclusions expressed, are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect HSE policy.

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Updated 2019-09-03