In a previous column on Handmade News, I shared tips on how to drill beach and sea glass. In part 2, we'll look at a question asked in the Etsy forum about how to protect yourself while drilling glass. One of the best things about posting in forums is there is always someone (or a dozen someones!) willing to help out, especially members of teams or guilds who can offer many viewpoints. Along with my advice is some terrific input from Mary of http://marstinia.etsy.com/ who is an accomplished enamelist.
Question: Since I am relatively new to fusing, I have a question on how to protect yourself from silica dust. I am at the grinder every day shaping my glass and noticed a lot of dust covering everything in my studio. So it's probably safe to assume that some of this is getting into my lungs, not good. I have read articles stating the little paper masks are not enough to protect your lungs from this sort of dust, so what do you do?
Answer: Good ventilation is necessary in your studio and work area, but sometimes ventilation alone isn't adequate protection. It's a good idea to wear a respirator or mask with a filter any time you're around airborne particles of glass (silica). It's the silica that can cause damage to your lungs and eyes. I use a respirator mask for grinding (even though everything gets soaking wet), for scraping kiln wash off shelves, for using powdered frits, if I'm vacuuming out the kilns or studio, etc. It's also a good idea to keep a bowl of water by your workspace to frequently dip your glass pieces in, both to keep the dust down and to cool off the glass. And remember not to bring food or drink into the studio!
Mary adds that ventilation and a good respirator is the way to go. Exposure to silica dust can cause very bad lung problems. As an enamelist, I'm working with powdered glass all the time, so I have to be extra careful. I would also recommend good cleaning habits in the studio. Areas where the dust builds up should be wet-mopped or wiped down with wet cloths. Never sweep glass dust as that will cause it to become airborne again.
So that's the glass pros advice on how to protect yourself while at the grinder. I know that whenever I have a question about pmc or art clay, I'll find the answer from a knowledgeable team member. Some wonderful collaborations have come from different teams joining together. So go ahead, ask those questions of teams and guilds!