The potential pitfalls of soldering solutions – and how to guard against them

Using a soldering iron raises safety issues, but it isn’t just the presence of a hot flame that installers need to be mindful of. Richard Hyde – Managing Director of Hyde – looks at the potential pitfalls of soldering solutions, and how to guard against them.
Health and safety should always be top of the agenda – regardless of the project – but when soldering copper pipework, it is essential that installers having their wits about them.
The presence of a naked flame means that it simply makes good sense that only a tradesperson that knows what they are doing should be in charge of any soldering. A hot works licence should also be in place, and the necessary measures should be taken to guard against potential fire risks, damage to fittings and fixtures and, of course, injury to the installer.
Chemical reaction
However, it isn’t just the naked flame that can throw up health and safety issues when soldering – other potential health hazards often slip through the net too as they aren’t really considered. Soldering products such as fluxes, and other everyday plumbing solutions including markers, often expose the installer to harmful chemicals which can be quite detrimental to their health and well-being – particularly as such products are used day in, day out.
Installers using fluxes with lead or other toxic materials are exposed to noxious fumes which are heated and breathed in countless times throughout an average working day. The effects of breathing in such fumes may not be felt at first – and perhaps not at all if they are used infrequently – but they may well be noticed over time and can have a serious impact on an installer’s health in the long-term.
State of flux
Water-soluble flux has become a popular alternative to rosin fluxes due to its strength and ease of cleaning. However, as the residues of a water-wash flux are to be removed, typically much more aggressive activators, including acid, are present. The result is a flux with chemicals present that are not only harmful to breathe in but can also cause damage to skin.
Avoiding painful and potentially career-limiting burns is about more than just wearing protective gloves and clothing. In reality, when working at pace and trying to ensure accuracy, the most effective form of protection is to opt for a flux that is both non-toxic and acid-free. In particular, installers should look for a product that meets the industry standard ASTM B813.
One such solution is LA-CO Flux – a non-acid (pH-neutral), non-toxic and lead-free flux that takes the stress out of applying paste to pipes when soldering. Not harmful to breathe in, the risk of acid burns to the skin is also eradicated when installers use such fluxes. As well as putting safety first, LA-CO Flux is water soluble for faster flushing from pipelines, while it’s super detergent action cleans as it solders to maximise efficiency.
Marking time
Markers are another soldering tool that, while seemingly harmless on the surface, might actually be hiding some nasty health risks. Some markers contain xylene, a toxic chemical that, like lead, can lead to potentially serious illnesses from exposure over a period of time.
A healthy alternative is to opt for a marker that is xylene-free, such as the Pro-Line HT liquid paint marker from Markal. Safe for the environment as well as for your health, these markers, available in arrange of colours, can withstand temperatures of up to 1,800°F (982°C).
If soldering pipework regularly, chances are an installer will always have a pot of flux and a marker or two in the tool bag. For the good of their health, it is important 2017to look at the labelling on these products when restocking.
Quality brands will be proud of their non-toxic, non-harmful ingredients, and will shout about them on their packaging, making them easy to find. In the same way that it is important to check the ingredients on food packaging in case of any known intolerances, it is just as important to check that the soldering solutions being used daily won’t compromise health – long after the hot flame has gone out.

Form not found, form id :279