I'm going to go ahead and start this article with a disclaimer: if you become pregnant and have any concerns regarding your safety or the safety of a particular chemical or material, DISCUSS THEM WITH YOUR DOCTOR! I am not providing medical advice!
Now that I've said that I can share my experience working through two pregnancies. Here are some simple changes you can make and tools you can invest in to decrease your inhalation and contact with fumes and chemicals. It should be noted that EVERYONE should be utilizing these safety practices, not just those that are pregnant!
Your first step is to order this book: Eco Jewelry Handbook by Christine Dhein it is a fabulous resource for every chemical you might encounter in a jewelry studio it explains the risks and which are the safest. You may find you can switch out your flux and patina for much safer options! Regardless of whether you are pregnant this book is a must for all jewelers to educate yourself on what the different chemicals are, their risks and the healthiest alternatives.
You should also add a copy of my book, Metalsmith Society's Guide To Jewelry Making to your cart! I talk about equipment and tools that can improve the safety in your studio along with ten projects and a bunch of other resources for your jewelry making journey.
Here are some ways you can improve the safety in your studio that you can put into practice right away:
Switch out your pickle for household vinegar! You can use this recipe from @emilieshapirojewelry - 1 cup distilled vinegar and 1 TBSP table salt. It does needs to be changed out more frequently. Although vinegar is natural once it is used as pickle it has metal in it and therefore should not be dumped down the drain. You can collect in a bucket, let it evaporate and take the sludge to your local hazardous waste drop-off.
Keep your safety goggles on at all times! I mean, we should all be doing this. I like this inexpensive pair from 3M because they wrap all the way around and are very light to wear all day.
When soldering the BEST protection is a ventilation system. There are many compact fume extractors with HEPA filters available and while they are an investment I consider them and your health to be essential. If you cannot immediately invest in one I suggest you prioritize buying one when possible. The most inexpensive option I have worked with that is relatively quiet and has a HEPA filter is the Hakko Fume Extractor. This system is an investment but you can rest assured when using this you are protecting yourself!
In reality some people will not have a ventilation system, we know this is not ideal and you should discuss your unique situation with your doctor! While it is an inferior method you can keep two windows open and a fan on to circulate air!. If you do not have a proper ventilation system (which I do highly recommend), open a few windows to get a cross-breeze and keep a table fan blowing on low near your soldering station and pickle pot. It will help keep the air around you circulating!
The most ideal method of protecting yourself while grinding, sanding and polishing will be a dust collector. I have used a bunch and I really like the Foredom Dust Collector. It will collect the metal (instead of it going into your lungs) and you can send the contents of the vacuum bag or container to your refiner to get money back!! In this regard they pay for themselves!
You will also need a dust collection hood or the Fishmouth attachment. The Fishmouth with bench pin is my prefered tool as it slides on to my GRS mounting plate. If you don't have a GRS mounting plate the collection hood can simply be mounted to the top of your bench!
If you don't yet have a dust collector you should wear an N95 mask when you are using your flexshaft, polishing, sanding etc. It is (in my opinion), comfortable enough to wear for longer periods of time and did not fog up my safety glasses. Please know that a dust collection system is superior to wearing a mask however keeping in mind many people do not have them the mask is a great option.
Wear rubber gloves when handling any chemicals including flux! I don't know about you but I occasionally get flux on my hands, and while I always wash my hands if you are pregnant you can take the extra precaution of wearing latex gloves*. I do also recommend again that you consider different flux options based on their safety rating in Christine's book above!
*Note about latex gloves and gloves in general, never ever wear gloves while using a polishing machine. Your hand can get pulled into the spindel and serious injury can occur.
Wear ear protection while hammering! These 3M muffs hang on a hook in my studio and I grab them whenever I am stamping.
Sit in a chair with proper back support! It is very easy for any of us to sit hunched over, but it is particularly uncomfortable when you are pregnant! Switch out your chair if it isn't providing you with the support you need! Also make sure you give yourself breaks and try to avoid doing repetitive movements for long periods of time for the health of your joints!
In reality these are great safety tips regardless of whether you are pregnant or not! Since having my children in 2015 and 2017 I've continued to practice better studio safety!
If you have other suggestions, please share them with our community! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org If you'd like to support Metalsmith Society you can shop my suggested Amazon links most of which are supporting small businesses that are on Amazon (and I'll get a little something something) or you can make a purchase from the Society Shop! Thank you for reading and I hope you found it helpful!