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Honey, your breath smells like 6061-T6

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  • Honey, your breath smells like 6061-T6

    I was dry parting a piece of 3/4" round aluminum on the lathe last night. I had adjusted the lights for a better view, and in their new location they illuminated a vast number of tiny specks of aluminum that were flying in the air. And I'm sure plenty that were too small for my eyes to see. Stuff I had surely been breathing.

    Not good!

    Short of wearing a mask, which I will consider while parting, what other steps can be taken in the home shop to minimize this? Putting cooling fluid on it might help, but it might also still carry aluminum, now covered with other chemicals, into the lungs. That would probably pose different risks, maybe even worse risks depending on the coolant breakdown products, etc.

    A vacuum near the tool would probably help.

    I'm not sure how other machining operations compare in terms of launching material into the air. I know that machining plastic releases a lot of fumes that I can smell. A vacuum would reduce the concentration of those fumes in the immediate vicinity.

  • #2
    That sounds really weird. 6061 aluminum is not prone to that sort of problem at all. I can imagine it maybe with 7000 series alloys which are really hard but I have never seen it. Aluminum is not at all toxic and neither are the alloying metals being primarily zinc or copper so I wouldn't worry about it. Note: The supposed aluminum vs Alzheimer's connection has been very thoroughly disproved.

    Cobalt is an entirely different matter so when grinding anything with cobalt such as tungsten carbides or cobalt steels you should very definitely take measures to not breath the dust. It can and will cause "Hard metal disease". The OSHA maximum limits in air for cobalt containing particulates are extremely low. They require pressurized air masks for 8 hour daily exposure to cobalt grinding.

    BTW, machining acetal does release formaldehyde so you should avoid breathing the fumes. It can cause pretty significant lung irritation.
    Last edited by Evan; 03-15-2013, 01:54 PM.
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    • #3
      I've seen lots of that. One of the jobs I had at Kaiser was running a coil slitting machine. Aluminum sheet was pulled from a coil mounted on an arbor through sets of round knives that were positioned to act like a scissors, and wound up on another arbor at the other end of the machine. The idea was to trim the edge of the metal to a specific width and or trim the rough edges created during reduction to thickness. The metal trimming that came from the edge was guided into a set of rotating knives that chopped it into small pieces and moved to a scrap tub.

      There wasn't an alloy that we processed that did not create a snow storm like affect and when there was sunlight coming into the area it was kinda of pretty. There did not seem to be any concern from anywhere that we were working in the sparkling dust that was created.
      Gene

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      • #4
        Sound interesting. If aluminum were toxic I would have been dead long ago.
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        • #5
          Sounds strange to me as well, especially with alum. I do remember however turning some stainless steel that irritated my throat. The first time I was'nt sure what could have caused the irritation and didn't give much thought to it or that the turning of the material had anything to do with it. When it happened again several months later turning the same material I started to think.......could it be what I just machined???? The material was stainless, not sure what alloy it was, it turned real nice and did have a very slight yellow cast to it, possible sulphurized stainless, I don't know.

          JL.......................

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          • #6
            Interesting- I've never heard of that, and never noticed any particular irritation or effect from breathing the air in the shop. There are certainly things that you don't want to breathe in- of the common materials that I work with, fiberglass dust is bad, plastics dust and fumes are to be avoided, and the worst in my experience is when I was torch heating epoxy circuit boards to release parts. I only did that once, and the moment I caught wind of the smell I realized this is not one to mess with. I stayed out of the shop for several days, except to tend to the exhaust fan.

            I don't have a death-wish, but if I did I'd probably go get a piece of beryllium and grind it up without wearing a mask-
            I seldom do anything within the scope of logical reason and calculated cost/benefit, etc- I'm following my passion-

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            • #7
              how do you dry part aluminum without it balling up on your tooling anyways?

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              • #8
                Originally posted by A.K. Boomer View Post
                how do you dry part aluminum without it balling up on your tooling anyways?
                Oh, that's easy. Nothing ever balls up on my tooling when I'm using borrowed tooling.

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                • #9
                  Good to hear that the aluminum itself is not a huge risk.

                  Still, the raw aluminum can have all sorts of stuff on the outside, and that stuff ends up on what releases into the air. And aluminum dust *cannot* be good for the lungs - nothing solid is good for the lungs.

                  Guess I need a fan that blows the dust in general - and especially concentrated plastic fumes - away from the area.

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                  • #10
                    You might think about a shop air cleaner, they use them a lot in woodworking shops. A lot of wood dusts are fairly toxic, especially some of the more exotic ones. The air cleaner filters the air and recirculates it. That is a good way to do it because then you don't lose heating or air conditioning like you do with an exhaust fan.

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                    • #11
                      Think I may get my shop vac set up for when Im grinding and welding. Do know after welding a while the insides of your nose will go jet black need to start getting use to wearing at least a dust mask

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                      • #12
                        Hi Folks,

                        Those of you that work or come into contact with Aluminum(Aluminium to Brits), might wish to read this- http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/healthguide...cognition.html

                        I worked for a transport company that hauled Aluminium Waste products for reclamation, we had to adhere to very strict guidelines, regarding the inhalation of Aluminium Metal particles.

                        There is a risk of Alzheimer's and other brain dysfunctions.

                        In Britain (Camelford) there was a serious accidental contamination of drinking water, with a road tanker load of Aluminium Sulfate salts.

                        I've no wish to piss on anyones chips, but please don't dismiss Aluminium as totally safe.

                        Chris
                        Chris....

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                        • #13
                          It does now occur to me that those fine particles of aluminum were likely generated by the sides of the parting tool rubbing on the work.

                          They rub into your skin, they get in your eyes, and stick to your glasses. And as Chris links, in the lungs they accumulate and are bad.

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