Solder Safety-Environmental Health & Safety - Carnegie Mellon University

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Solder Safety

Soldering is a fairly common activity at Carnegie Mellon and there are some potential hazards with its use that need to be addressed by users.

First of all, lead is a common constituent of many solders and is, of course, a serious health hazard when it is inhaled or absorbed into the skin.  To lessen this hazard, the use of non-lead solder is a step in the right direction.  I know, though, from what I have been told by users, that non-lead solder does not work as well as leaded solder.  And frankly, non-leaded solder still does have hazards, including other metals and fluxes.  So continue to use the leaded solder, if you must.

We recommend that soldering be performed in a well-ventilated area.  Even better is the use of desk-top ventilation units designed for soldering safety.  These may be located and purchased through internet searches.  They will remove not only lead, but other contaminants, including those from the flux.  Proper maintenance of the unit is essential, so be prepared to have replacement filters on hand.  And be sure to work close enough to the unit to let it work properly.

Also, try work practices where your head is not directly over the soldering area, if possible, but rather do the soldering in front of you.  Wear disposable gloves to ensure that contaminants from the solder do not get absorbed through your skin.

A more comprehensive document outlining recommended solder safety procedures is available on the EH&S web page, at http://www.cmu.edu/ehs/chemical/Lead%20Soldering%20Safety%20Guidelines.pdf.  

And, as always, please feel free to contact us at 8-8182 with any questions you may have about this topic.

By: Mark Banister, markb2@andrew.cmu.edu, 412-268-1493