Author Topic: hazardous materials in old calibration gear? (Fluke 5440B)  (Read 1542 times)

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Offline e61_phil

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hazardous materials in old calibration gear? (Fluke 5440B)
« on: September 30, 2020, 05:45:52 pm »
Hi,

most of my calibration gear is quite old and many things around a house (at least in germany) contains asbestos and other hazardous materials, if they are build before ~1990.

Does anyone know if that is also true for our old test equipment?

At the moment I'm working on a Fluke 5440B sample string oven. That contains a hard yellow foam with something like a white paint on it. I wonder if that material contains anything harmful which was included to prevent the material from catching fire (something like asbestos or polychlorinated biphenyls).

Does anyone know if we should take special care with some components here (I'm not talking about leaded solder ;) )

Best regards
Philipp
 

Online Kleinstein

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Re: hazardous materials in old calibration gear? (Fluke 5440B)
« Reply #1 on: September 30, 2020, 05:53:45 pm »
Some reed relays for DC precision stuff may contain mercury whetted contacts. So treat them well as it is difficult to get replacement. As long as they are not broken they pose no problem.

Some RF power transistors may contain BeO isolators. Just don't take them apart. The data-sheets usually tells. I would not expect this in lower frequency gear, more like thing for an old scope or spectrum analyzer.
 

Offline MosherIV

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Re: hazardous materials in old calibration gear? (Fluke 5440B)
« Reply #2 on: September 30, 2020, 07:34:59 pm »
Hi
Watch out for capacitors pre dating 1976, they may contain Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCB).

Take precautions when handling them.
Simply replace them.
 

Online jbb

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Re: hazardous materials in old calibration gear? (Fluke 5440B)
« Reply #3 on: September 30, 2020, 09:11:17 pm »
As it’s a safety related question, you could contact Fluke and ask.

I think some of their lab equipment had Beryllium Oxide ceramics for ovens etc.
 

Online TiN

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Re: hazardous materials in old calibration gear? (Fluke 5440B)
« Reply #4 on: September 30, 2020, 10:19:07 pm »
Resistance standards used to often used with mercury pools and stands to ensure lowest ohmic contacts in resistance metrology.
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Offline thermistor-guy

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Re: hazardous materials in old calibration gear? (Fluke 5440B)
« Reply #5 on: October 01, 2020, 12:27:51 am »
Hi,

most of my calibration gear is quite old and many things around a house (at least in germany) contains asbestos and other hazardous materials, if they are build before ~1990.

Does anyone know if that is also true for our old test equipment?
...
Does anyone know if we should take special care with some components here (I'm not talking about leaded solder ;) )

Best regards
Philipp

Some old power transistors (e.g. in a TO3 case) contain Beryllium Oxide, to promote heat conduction.

Some old connectors and backshells have a yellowish Cadmium plating, for corrosion resistance. If you cut, file, or grind the component (which I need to, on occasion), this can generate hazardous dust and fumes. That said, most people's Cadmium exposure comes from cigarette smoking: https://err.ersjournals.com/content/27/147/170122

 

Offline CatalinaWOW

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Re: hazardous materials in old calibration gear? (Fluke 5440B)
« Reply #6 on: October 01, 2020, 12:44:15 am »
By some of todays standards there are a great many hazardous materials in older test equipment.

In some specs I have seen any content of any of the following is considered hazardous.  Lead, Mercury, Chromium, Copper (?), Berylium, Thalium, Radium, Tritium, Cadmium and others.

So if it has solder, wetted contacts, zinc chromate anti-corrosiom, wiring, berylium-copper spring contacts, glow in the dark dials, cadmium plated metal (again anti-corrosion) it could be rated as hazardous. 

Most of these are not a problem if left in place.

Many older formulations of adhesives contain chemicals not longer allowed.  Loctite being a common example.

Larger equipment and specialized equipment may contain Freon or Halon for cooling and fire suppression.

Some equipment contained Polonium (an alpha emitter) to suppress static buildup.  This one is ok as long as undisturbed, but you really don't want to mess with it.  It is bottle lung cancer if disturbed.

It is hard to see how we lived through all of this danger. >:D >:D
 

Online Cerebus

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Re: hazardous materials in old calibration gear? (Fluke 5440B)
« Reply #7 on: October 01, 2020, 01:59:10 am »
most of my calibration gear is quite old and many things around a house (at least in germany) contains asbestos and other hazardous materials, if they are build before ~1990.

That late? I'm surprised. Blue and brown asbestos were completely banned in the UK in 1985. Some limited uses of white asbestos continued to be permitted, with phased withdrawals until the final complete ban on all asbestos in 1999. I'm surprised because my general impression is that Germany has always been more 'on the ball' than the UK in the environmental field, and I'd have expected them to have acted before the UK.
Anybody got a syringe I can use to squeeze the magic smoke back into this?
 

Offline james_s

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Re: hazardous materials in old calibration gear? (Fluke 5440B)
« Reply #8 on: October 01, 2020, 05:02:07 am »
Who cares? Don't eat it, problem solved. The hazardous materials are in general not an issue unless you fool around with them. I have old stuff with asbestos, PCB oil, beryllium ceramic, lead, mercury and other hazardous substances in them but it's not really an issue if it's just left alone. Asbestos was primarily hazardous to those with occupational exposure, particularly mining it or things like breaking up old ships where there is a lot of it. PCB oil is bad, not so much because of toxicity but because it is an extremely stable compound so when it leaks out on the ground it eventually gets into the groundwater and stays there. I shudder to think how much PCB oil leaked into the environment after people fearing having the stuff threw items containing it into the trash. Really though it was only really an issue with utility gear that contained many gallons of the stuff. 
 
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Offline MadTux

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Re: hazardous materials in old calibration gear? (Fluke 5440B)
« Reply #9 on: October 01, 2020, 11:18:52 am »
My main concern with 5440B would be the 1100V/65mA on the output ports. Touch it once due to carelessness with both hands and you're likely dead.

Asbestos are harmless if left alone, only dangerous if you grind it and inhale the dust.
Sure, that stuff gives you cancer, but it's mostly relevant for those who work with it for years. Do it once and avoild dust, and you're likely just fine. So if you have to grind a part that is suspected made with asbestos, just do it wet, so there is no dust in the air and wear a dust mask.
 

Offline notfaded1

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Re: hazardous materials in old calibration gear? (Fluke 5440B)
« Reply #10 on: October 01, 2020, 01:22:51 pm »
Funny story... one of my mentors at General Electric years ago told me about GE Power Systems Schenectady, NY where they made many large scale industrial transformers etc. He said they used to have a pool... yeah I mean like a huge pool the size of a large rectangular swimming pool that contained nothing but PCB's.  He said the technicians would go out into the pool with basically waders on like a fisherman would almost.  He told me they used to have transformers inside the building mounted up high above their desks in the office that sometimes leaked PCB's after they aged a long time and would drip down on the desk.  He said a few years later a guy from GE Environmental came around with pamphlets warning against exposure to these PCB's.  One of the side effects it said on the pamphlet was that it could turn your hair white.  My buddy had blonde hair when he was younger he told me but at this time his hair was a white as snow!

Bill
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Offline e61_phil

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Re: hazardous materials in old calibration gear? (Fluke 5440B)
« Reply #11 on: October 01, 2020, 02:29:52 pm »
My main concern with 5440B would be the 1100V/65mA on the output ports. Touch it once due to carelessness with both hands and you're likely dead.

Asbestos are harmless if left alone, only dangerous if you grind it and inhale the dust.
Sure, that stuff gives you cancer, but it's mostly relevant for those who work with it for years. Do it once and avoild dust, and you're likely just fine. So if you have to grind a part that is suspected made with asbestos, just do it wet, so there is no dust in the air and wear a dust mask.

I like the risks of electricity much more than chemical ones ;). They are much more honest. In the evening you will know if everything was fine. If you touch HV you will get direct "feedback". With these chemical things it is completely different. It may be the case that you didn't notice anything, but 10 or 20 years later you're getting sick.


I also asked Fluke and they said, that they think there isn't anything harmful, but due to the age of the instrument, they cannot guarantee that.

I think it is very likely that these "paint" on the foam contains asbestos and the foam itself will contain harmful flame retardants (that might be a smaller issue unless you eat the foam).

My plan is now to remove these foam plates outside with a mask and replace them with something new.
 

Offline rubidium

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Re: hazardous materials in old calibration gear? (Fluke 5440B)
« Reply #12 on: October 01, 2020, 02:38:10 pm »
More than a half-century ago,  when I lived in northern New Jersey as a kid, a common (though unwritten) slogan that circulated among the big chemical factories was "Dilution is the solution to pollution".  :scared:
 

Online NANDBlog

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Re: hazardous materials in old calibration gear? (Fluke 5440B)
« Reply #13 on: October 01, 2020, 02:42:05 pm »
Hi,

most of my calibration gear is quite old and many things around a house (at least in germany) contains asbestos and other hazardous materials, if they are build before ~1990.

Does anyone know if that is also true for our old test equipment?
...
Does anyone know if we should take special care with some components here (I'm not talking about leaded solder ;) )

Best regards
Philipp

Some old power transistors (e.g. in a TO3 case) contain Beryllium Oxide, to promote heat conduction.

Some old connectors and backshells have a yellowish Cadmium plating, for corrosion resistance. If you cut, file, or grind the component (which I need to, on occasion), this can generate hazardous dust and fumes. That said, most people's Cadmium exposure comes from cigarette smoking: https://err.ersjournals.com/content/27/147/170122
Honestly, I never understood the ban of Beryllium Oxide. It is typically inside a package, so you would need to:
1. Open the package
2. Grind the Beryllium Oxide
3. Inhale it
Otherwise it is not dangerous. I mean, sure. If it is crushed on a junk yard, it will come out. But so does fibreglass from an FR4 or fire from the batteries. Or am I missing something?
 

Offline CatalinaWOW

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Re: hazardous materials in old calibration gear? (Fluke 5440B)
« Reply #14 on: October 01, 2020, 03:52:10 pm »
Hi,

most of my calibration gear is quite old and many things around a house (at least in germany) contains asbestos and other hazardous materials, if they are build before ~1990.

Does anyone know if that is also true for our old test equipment?
...
Does anyone know if we should take special care with some components here (I'm not talking about leaded solder ;) )

Best regards
Philipp

Some old power transistors (e.g. in a TO3 case) contain Beryllium Oxide, to promote heat conduction.

Some old connectors and backshells have a yellowish Cadmium plating, for corrosion resistance. If you cut, file, or grind the component (which I need to, on occasion), this can generate hazardous dust and fumes. That said, most people's Cadmium exposure comes from cigarette smoking: https://err.ersjournals.com/content/27/147/170122
Honestly, I never understood the ban of Beryllium Oxide. It is typically inside a package, so you would need to:
1. Open the package
2. Grind the Beryllium Oxide
3. Inhale it
Otherwise it is not dangerous. I mean, sure. If it is crushed on a junk yard, it will come out. But so does fibreglass from an FR4 or fire from the batteries. Or am I missing something?

Totally agree.  Same thing for beryllium copper springs.  Maybe if you grind them into dust and breath them.  Way too much fear and not enough thought.
 

Offline thermistor-guy

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Re: hazardous materials in old calibration gear? (Fluke 5440B)
« Reply #15 on: October 02, 2020, 12:17:12 am »
...
Honestly, I never understood the ban of Beryllium Oxide. It is typically inside a package, so you would need to:
1. Open the package
2. Grind the Beryllium Oxide
3. Inhale it
Otherwise it is not dangerous. I mean, sure. If it is crushed on a junk yard, it will come out. But so does fibreglass from an FR4 or fire from the batteries. Or am I missing something?

I have worked in an EE lab where it was common, for the gurus there, to open up device packages and investigate their construction and design. Typical reasons: reverse engineering, investigation of failure modes, and pure curiosity. And some of the gurus there had an interest in antique components and historical equipment. Granted, it was an unusual place, and these were unusual (brilliant) people.
 

Offline jpb

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Re: hazardous materials in old calibration gear? (Fluke 5440B)
« Reply #16 on: October 02, 2020, 07:06:24 am »
Honestly, I never understood the ban of Beryllium Oxide. It is typically inside a package, so you would need to:
1. Open the package
2. Grind the Beryllium Oxide
3. Inhale it
Otherwise it is not dangerous. I mean, sure. If it is crushed on a junk yard, it will come out. But so does fibreglass from an FR4 or fire from the batteries. Or am I missing something?
The reason for the ban is, I'd guess, to protect those producing the product in the first place.
I used to know someone who had been affected (as in having a life-long lung disease) by working with Beryllium Oxide as a young apprentice. I think it was used in hermetically sealed enclosures for high-frequency (radar) amps and part of the process seemed to involve grinding it - but I may be wrong on that.
 

Offline MosherIV

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Re: hazardous materials in old calibration gear? (Fluke 5440B)
« Reply #17 on: October 02, 2020, 08:14:48 am »
Quote
The reason for the ban is, I'd guess, to protect those producing the product in the first place.

No, it is there to protect everyone and to remove it from the environment by removing its use.
COSHH stands for the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations.

Sure, everyone has stories about how people seem to get away with exposure to these substances but wait to see what these people die of.
Yes some will die of unrelated things but exposure increases the chances of developing diseae not absolute guarentee of deveopling those diseases.
 

Online NANDBlog

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Re: hazardous materials in old calibration gear? (Fluke 5440B)
« Reply #18 on: October 02, 2020, 08:29:47 am »
Honestly, I never understood the ban of Beryllium Oxide. It is typically inside a package, so you would need to:
1. Open the package
2. Grind the Beryllium Oxide
3. Inhale it
Otherwise it is not dangerous. I mean, sure. If it is crushed on a junk yard, it will come out. But so does fibreglass from an FR4 or fire from the batteries. Or am I missing something?
The reason for the ban is, I'd guess, to protect those producing the product in the first place.
I used to know someone who had been affected (as in having a life-long lung disease) by working with Beryllium Oxide as a young apprentice. I think it was used in hermetically sealed enclosures for high-frequency (radar) amps and part of the process seemed to involve grinding it - but I may be wrong on that.
That is one of the reasons. A very good reason.
But they mark components inside enclosures if they have Beryllium Oxide. I've seen it on some of Dave's videos.
 

Offline e61_phil

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Re: hazardous materials in old calibration gear? (Fluke 5440B)
« Reply #19 on: October 02, 2020, 09:27:47 am »
That is one of the reasons. A very good reason.
But they mark components inside enclosures if they have Beryllium Oxide. I've seen it on some of Dave's videos.

But you need to know something about that topic. We used some APEX high voltage operational amplifiers in the past and they are also labeled with "Beo", but that is only written on it like the rest of the text. If you aren't aware of BeO you won't notice any danger there.
 


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