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I have been reading up on the dangers of leaded solder. I understand the risk of actually soldering with it are minimal but my question is specifically its removal via "solder suckers."

Does this process of removal cause fine enough particulates to make an airborne risk of exposure a viable one?

If so what steps can be taken to prevent an airborne risk of exposure?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I would assume yes. \$\endgroup\$ – MadHatter Jun 9 '19 at 0:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ Never thought about it being a risk. Doesn’t the vacuum chamber created by the hand pump draw and at the same time cool down the liquid to a solid inside the chamber? \$\endgroup\$ – Tony Stewart Sunnyskyguy EE75 Jun 9 '19 at 0:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes, but you will have lead dust that rattles loose every time you use it. \$\endgroup\$ – MadHatter Jun 9 '19 at 1:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is what I thought but theres no warning about it I could find... It seems like it should be noted on safety pages and docs no? \$\endgroup\$ – Nareik Seivad Jun 9 '19 at 2:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ Regarding lack of warnings, are you looking at the manual spring-activated suckers? Or the motorized vacuum pump ones? I wouldn't be surprised if the manual ones had no warning due to being so cheap and mass produced. I know for a fact fume extractors have such warnings during filter replacement but I never owned a motorized vacuum pump to see if the manual or unit had such warning. \$\endgroup\$ – DKNguyen Jun 9 '19 at 6:48
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If you're worried about lead, I would switch to lead-free solder. It takes some getting used to, and you may need a hotter iron, but it works fine.

I hand solder 0.5mm pitch parts regularly using Sn99.3Cu0.7 solder.

It's better for the environment, in addition to potentially being healthier for you.

A simpler change you could make is to use flux and a desoldering braid instead of the solder sucker. The braid has some of its own flux, but some extra can really "wet" the solder to get it out of through holes and crevices. Some of the cheap desoldering braids work terribly, so I'd recommend springing for the good stuff. Get something with a good rating on amazon. And pick up a highly rated flux at the same time.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah I switched a few years ago, it was removing something from an old project that got me curious... I think I may use a wick in future, thank you. Lol or I may just not reuse things with lead solder :p and replace them, better safe than sorry. \$\endgroup\$ – Nareik Seivad Jun 9 '19 at 2:45
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If you use one of those motorized vacuum solder suckers, when cleaning it out you would see nothing but a bunch of fine lead dust in the glass cartridge. I definitely always wore a respirator when cleaning it out but no one else did. I don't know if it was fine enough to remain airborne since that would require require a beam of sunlight to make them visible but the room it was in did not have such a window.

I assume a manual sucker is no different. As a result, I always always re-arm it immediately after each use to eject anything inside and stick the iron into the nozzle as I do in order to capture and liquify any dust coming out.

Regarding lack of warnings, are you looking at the manual spring-activated suckers? Or the motorized vacuum pump ones? I wouldn't be surprised if the manual ones had no warning due to being so cheap and mass produced. I know for a fact fume extractors have such warnings during filter replacement but I never owned a my own personal motorized vacuum pump (the dust I saw when using them at school was one reason I never considered owning one) to see if the manual or unit had such warning.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Not specifically for the products, just online and in general. There are plenty of guides and safety advisement, none specifically mention the desoldering process. At least none that I could find. \$\endgroup\$ – Nareik Seivad Jun 10 '19 at 3:48
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The vacuum action should collect all of the lead. In its molten state, it doesn't separate very easily. If you're working with any solder you should also have an extraction fan going, which would further prevent any particles escaping.

Now I think the tools themselves could definitely build up a coating of particles. How much they come loose and form an aerosol I don't know, but cleaning them would probably help.

Lead is the known scary substance. But even with lead free solder, aerosol particles breathed into your lungs are bad for you.

I think it's less about, what are you doing to protect against the scary lead and more about what are your general safety precautions when doing any soldering work at all.

I made a particulate and air quality sensor few months ago, maybe I can try some experiments. I'm going to bet that even just heating the iron up results in particulates escaping into the air though.

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