Particulate and gas released during laser applications are harmful to both the operator and the laser system itself. The inhalation of laser fumes can lead to long-term medical conditions and can cause expensive medical claims for employers. According to the Princeton University Environmental Health and Safety website, examples of air contaminants produced by the interaction between the laser beam and target matter might include the following:
- polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons from mode burns on poly (methyl methacrylate) type polymers;
- hydrogen cyanide and benzene from cutting of aromatic polyamide fibers;
fused silica from cutting quartz;
- heavy metals from etching;
- benzene from cutting polyvinyl chloride; and
- cyanide, formaldehyde and synthetic and natural fibers associated with other processes.
Health effects vary depending on the chemicals involved and range from acute health effects (ex. irritation of the nose, eyes, and throat) to long-term (ex. asthma or nervous systems damage).
The laser system itself might also be damaged if the area is not well-ventilated. Particulate can build up on the laser optics, creating undesired marks or potential damage to the laser itself.
Sentry Air Systems, Inc. offers multiple laser fume extraction units (portable or mounted) for particulate and gas filtration depending on the application, which can range from laser cutting, laser welding, laser marketing, laser engraving, and more. Filtration media is also chosen depending on the application. Filter media can include HEPA, ULPA, Carbon, Gas, Ammonia and various other filters, but in most cases Sentry Air Systems utilizes HEPA and Carbon filtration. HEPA filters are 99.97% efficient on particles .3 microns and larger and Carbon filters are used to filter organic fumes from the material that is being cut or burned.
These laser fume extractors capture the laser fumes with a powerful fan and then purify and redistribute them into the room as clean air.
Laser Fume RegulationsIn OSHA’s Technical Manual (TED 01-00-015) Section III, Chapter 6, Section II, Regarding Laser Fumes:
INDUSTRIAL HYGIENE. Potential hazards associated with compressed gases, cryogenic materials, toxic and carcinogenic materials and noise should be considered. Adequate ventilation shall be installed to reduce noxious or potentially hazardous fumes and vapors, produced by laser welding, cutting and other target interactions, to levels below the appropriate threshold limit values, e.g., American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) threshold limit values (TLV’s) or Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) permissible exposure limits (PEL’s).
Permissible exposure limits are issued per chemical and not as “laser fumes” in general. It is best to check with OSHA to determine the exposure limits of the chemicals you use during laser applications.
For assistance in choosing a laser fume extractor that will work for your application, please call a Sentry Air Systems Applications Specialist at 800.799.4609, email us at email@example.com or check out our company website at http://www.sentryair.com/.