Stained Glass Safety Equipment – Fume Extraction

Stained Glass Makers know that in most cases soldering is essential to complete their project.

Whether you’re using lead-based or lead-free solder, overexposure to the associated fumes has the potential to lead to serious health effects according to numerous health and safety organizations.

When heated with a soldering iron, solder vaporizes and then solidifies as it is carried into the operator’s airstream as tiny particles. Operating the iron at higher temperatures may release more fumes.

Lead-based Solder Fumes. Health Canada explains that “short-term exposure to high levels of lead can cause vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions, coma or even death”, while long-term lead exposure can lead to anemia, brain and nervous system damage, kidney damage, and symptoms including “appetite loss, abdominal pain, constipation, fatigue, sleeplessness, irritability, headache.”

Young children and infants are more susceptible to the harmful effects of lead exposure because their bodies absorb lead more easily. Minimal levels of lead exposure have the potential to harm “the intellectual development, behavior, size, and hearing of infants.” [1]

Solder Fumes from Rosin-based Flux. Flux is a chemical cleaning agent used in conjunction with solder to remove oxidation from the base and filler metals involved in soldering.

Typically you will see more obvious smoke (fumes) using these solders than you would see when using lead-based solder.

Colophony is the base product of flux, which is a “translucent amber-colored rosin obtained when turpentine is distilled from resin of pine trees.”

When this flux is heated, it has been known to generate fumes including aliphaticaldehydes (like formaldehyde) and “hydrochloric acid and other gases containing benzene, toluene, styrene, phenol, chlorophenol and isopropyl alcohol.” [2]

According to the WorkSafe Western Australia Commission, “short term problems can include nose, sinus, eye and throat irritation and skin rashes, and long term problems may include asthma and dermatitis.” [3]

Read more about the hazards of solder fume here.

Ventilation. Ventilation is a good engineering control for improving air quality while soldering; however, many soldering exhaust fans are inadequate because they merely disperse the fumes around the room.

Consequently, these fumes will eventually be inhaled by anyone in the room.

Instead, high efficiency filtration should be utilized in conjunction with a powerful fan.

For instance, the Sentry Air HEPA [High Efficiency Particulate Air] filter is up to 99.97% efficient on particles 0.3 microns in size and are also composed of flame-retardant materials as an extended safety feature.

Take a look at Sentry Air’s most popular units used by Stained Glass Makers:

Series 100 Solder Fume Extractors [benchtop and floor units]

Model 200 Floor Sentry Fume Extractor

Read a testimonial by a stained glass hobbyist who uses the Sentry Air Systems Model 300 Portable Floor Sentry Fume Extractor.Other Safety Precautions. Other safety tips given by the Australian Government [Dept. of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities] when dealing with lead in stained glass include:

  • Don’t eat or smoke in the work area and don’t work on the kitchen or dining room table. You want to make sure that you don’t contaminate anything you’re eating or any surface area that may be in contact with food.
  • Pregnant women are strongly advised to refrain from stained glass making activities. The Australian Government recommends staying away from these activities until breast-feeding ceases.
  • Keep young children away from working areas. This also includes equipment and work clothes.
  • Wash work clothes separately to avoid contamination with everyday clothing.
  • Work Room Safety including adequate ventilation, easy to clean surface areas (avoid carpeting), personal respiration, protective clothing, protective eye gear, regular work space cleaning, and proper waste disposal techniques.

For more tips, visit: assistance in selecting the perfect Solder Fume Extractor for your work area, contact one of our Applications Specialists at 1.800.799.4609 or email us at

[1] Health Canada, “Effects of Lead on Human Health”[2] Weller ®, “Health Hazards from Inhaling and Exposure to Soldering Fumes.”[3] Government of Western Australia, “Soldering in the Workplace: Rosin Fluxes.”