Print shop in garage + lead dust safety

Who here has a print shop in a home garage? And particularly how do you keep lead dust out of the living space of an attached house?

Log in to reply   13 replies so far

I have always had a print shop in my home, and have never had to deal with “lead dust” migrating. The use of type in the shop does not create dust of any sort. If the shop were in a very high humidity environment for a long period you might begin to see lead oxide developing on the type, but certainly this is a very rare occurrence in the typical shop. Typemetal shavings sometimes get carried in on clothing if I’ve cut or sawed elements, but they can be easily picked up with regular cleaning or vacuuming in the shop or other areas of the home.

Paper dust and inky fingers on light switches do cause a bit of consternation with the spouse on occasion, but lead dust has never been an issue in any of my shops (garages, basements and house additions over the years).

John Henry

No documented case of a “printer” dying of lead poisoning. Since the 20’s. So if it’s a hobby, I wouldn’t worry too much.

I did get lead poisoning in my blood stream once when I touched my finger to an open cut, so be careful of that possibity.

Wow, I even looked at that and still missed my mistake.

Are you casting lead lines of text with a Linotype or Ludlow?
I do not see how foundry cast type could have lead dust?

I was told by a printer they had to drink 1 liter of milk every day to prevent lead poissioning back in ‘the days’. Although the metal type is not 100% lead but has more metals in it I am too carefull when I work with metal type. Always washing my hand toroughly when eating something and wearing a long jacket which I leave in the garage when entering the house.

Maybe it’s a bit overdone but my health is first priority.

Yes, health is a priority in any industry and occupation. Coen’s regimen is similar to mine. Although I never felt up to drinking so much milk. Common sense dictates the washing of hands regularly and never touching other parts of the body, such as eyes, mouth, face and toileting with unwashed hands. Eating with unwashed hands is dangerous and so is drying on dirty towels. One has to be really susceptible or neglectful to be poisoned by printer’s lead, being the alloy that it is. Been handling lead and dust since December 1965. My Collins Dictionary states that alloys have remarkably different properties when 2 or more metals are mixed. May be there is no claim to Lead poisoning from printer’s lead.All that said, driving a car is more dangerous, if we don’t apply the Sense.

I have my press in a non attached garage, but here goes,
Whilst agree entirely about hand wash and so forth, our original compositors green felt aprons used to retain a trifle. The essence is that type-metal is a THREE and sometimes FOUR metal alloy, and as someone said an alloy is quite a different matter to its parents. Our UK street of printers - Fleet Street in London was NOT littered with the bodies of dying compositors. I have never met a case of printer death by ”lead poisoning”, and I started with a comp stick in my hand in 1948, yes really 1948. Odd characters used to get into trouser turn ups - remember those? and fall out indoors. They made a funny noise in the Hoover later, and ‘the boss’ used to mutter a bit! But
seriously, theres no great need to worry folks, and the milk
business here in the UK was for the LADIES in the bindery when they were doing bronze powdering by hand eg on Wedding invites.

Look, all you need to worry about are lead oxides. They are part of the typecasting process in the form of dross, and they can exist in the typecase if the type is blighted. If your type isn’t powdery, you are fine. Children are at greater risk than adults because lead oxide can affect development.
Milk was for the people working at the remelt furnace and the crucible, where dross was a real hazard (not lead fumes).
I was told reallylast week that typemetal dross has value because it is used in the refinement process of some other industrial materials.

Ok. So no cases of printers dying from lead poisoning.
But what about small children in the home? Especially when the shop is in an attached garage. I have a 15 month old and do have a concern about exposing him to typemetal shavings after I have been working in the attached garage. I don’t believe any of my type is oxidized. But I do end up cutting slugs often on the slug cutter. Should I be worried about tracking any shavings upstairs where he is playing and crawling around? Are there any other folks with kids who have an at home shop?

The person who told Coen about the litter of milk per day only made things worse. Back in the 1950s and 1960s, house painters and people working in the printing industry in the Netherlands, were issued with the obligatory liter of milk per day by their employers. It was only in the 1980s, that a study showed that drinking milk only aggravated things as the fatty components in the milk would hold the ‘dust’ in the stomach. My advice, wash your hands and have a good glass of red wine!

I have worked with lead for 55 years, always kept my children away from the shop till they were teenagers, don’t suck on slugs, wash your hands and things should be fine.

Growing up, my father had an Albion, two compositors stands full of type, leading, chemicals etc in his study.

While we were still young (Maybe 10 ish) we helped print some booklets. By 16 I was setting type. I don’t think I have died from lead poisoning yet.

We were clearly instructed not to eat the type, eat or drink while working with type, wash our hands thoroughly, and so on.

Take sensible precautions and don’t let your 15 month old chew on type. Remember to wash your hands. You should be safe. Of course if you have an older house you need to keep the kids away from the paint too if you want to make sure that they don’t accidentally ingest lead.