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Dax Looney

Keeping the Black Lung Away

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So I'm 18 years old and have just started smithing. My family is very supportive of this endeavor. I have a coal forge, and one day about a week ago I was forging when my grandparents decided to come over. They thought it was pretty cool, until they saw the soot coming off the coal. Then my grandmother freaked out about how I would die of black lung in a year.

 

So, the tl;dr is as follows: what kind of lung protection do you use?

 

I currently use a bandana tied around my face until the initial flames die down.

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On the rare occasion that I use my coal forges I wear a North 7700 half mask. At minimum you should consider a good vented 3M painters disposable mask. IMHO

 

What moved me away from using coal was I got a cold while in NC, and after 3 days of forging I looked at my handkerchief and it was black. I'm still to young to not care about it. I also found that propane in my case is not only cleaner, easier to control but, also easier and less expensive to get in my area

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Thanks! I've been thinking about building a gas forge, but I'm not sure if it would be cheaper to run in my area. I'll look into it!

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I really don't think you have much to worry about, though you should take whatever precautions you are comfortable with.

 

Black lung is a miner's disease (silicosis, I believe). They are exposed to a constant cloud of coal and rock dust continually for hours at a time for years and years.

 

I may be very wrong, but I've never heard of a blacksmith getting black lung... espeacilly a hobby or part-time smith. But I am always open to correction.

 

I have blown out some interesting stuff after a day in the coal, but haven't noticed any negative effects.

 

But grinders and zip wheel dust... that stuff scares me. I've tried to quit taking unnecessary chances with airborne abrasives.

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The real danger is with the toxins in the smoke, and those are really pretty minimal with the exposure levels you are dealing with. If you are concerned with the smoke, and like working with hard fuels, look into finding a source for foundry coke ( a form of refined coal). That is what I use and there is little to no smoke.

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Just make sure not to breath in the dust clouds when emptying a bag. I don't know how much comes from coal, but with charcoal you'll have a bad cough for days if you breath in the dust when emptying a big bag. Other then that, there's not much dust from the fuel. Carbonmonoxide is your biggest worry when forging, for which you have to ensure proper ventilation. That means not just a small window open, but if inside at least doors open wide.

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What Jeroen said applies to all forges that we use. The frames for my doors and windows are all empty. That makes it cold in the winter but a lot safer. The only people who I've known to come down with black lung disease were some hard heads who refused to wear their respirators at the coal ports where I used to live in Virginia and they got expose to tons of it at a time arriving on the train or being loaded onto colliers.

 

Doug

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I'm going to begin work on a gas forge in a few months so I can get some serious smithing done, mostly because of the things I've learned on this forum.

 

Luckily, all the precautions that everyone here's mentioned I don't really have to worry about. My forge is just standing in the backyard. There's nothing but open sky above it :P

 

Thanks for all the feedback! I look forward to getting more work done soon because of you guys!

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Fucina al Fresco... got to love it.

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