Photo Processing And Printing

Chemicals are widely and commonly used in the field of photo processing and printing, and some of the waste generated may be considered hazardous substances that can cause negative effects on the health of humans, especially when they inhale them or in direct contact with them without using personal protective equipment. though the concentration of toxic substances can vary from process to another, they should always be handled with caution, in storing and discharging activities, as some chemicals contain known carcinogens.

Silver-bearing wastes

Photographic processing labs produce a variety of chemical wastes. One of the main concerning chemicals are silver compounds like silver "halide" compounds used in photography. It is hazardous because of its toxic effect on the environment, in addition to accumulating in the solid by-products from wastewater treatment plants which may potentially limits recycling it. Silver (D011 in Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure TLCP) contained in films, papers, and silver-rich solutions is generated during processing films.


  • Very toxic to aquatic
  •  life
  • Very toxic to aquatic
  •  life with long lasting effects

Potassium bromide

It is commonly used as a restrainer in developing solutions.

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and helps in prolonging development time as well as preventing and minimizing fog. When used in paper developers, it also reduces contrast and provides a warming effect. Additionally, potassium bromide is used as an intensifying ingredient and to reduce toners.

This chemical is toxic by ingestion and inhalation. It is an irritant of the skin, eyes and respiratory tract. When heated to decomposition it emits toxic fumes of bromine.

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  • Serious skin irritation.
  • May cause respiratory irritation
  • Causes serious eye irritation.
  • Harmful to aquatic life with long lasting effects.

Sodium sulfite

Sodium Sulfite is commonly used as a preservative in developing baths. It is also used within acid fixing baths and as a blackener for negative intensification processes.


  • Causes severe skin burns and eye damage
  • Skin corrosion/irritation
  • serious eye irritation


para-Phenylenediamine is primarily used as a dye intermediate and as a dye, (for example, hair dyes and dyes used for dyeing furs), as well as a photographic developing agent .


  • toxic if swallowed, in contact with skin or if inhaled.
  • Very toxic and hazardous to aquatic life with long lasting effects.
  • Causes damage to organs.
  • Causes serious eye irritation.
  • May cause an allergic skin reaction.

Health effects:


  • Argyria: is a condition in which the skin gums eyes internal organs and other body parts turn bluish-grey due to the long exposure to silver or when silver accumulate in the body, its also known as blue man syndrome.
  • Liver damage: accumulation of silver in the liver lowers the function of the liver.
  • Irritation in the skin and eyes.
  • Changes in the blood cells: silver binds to reduce glutathione in the liver, which is important for the structure and function of red blood cells.
  • Respiratory track: inhaling silver can irritate the upper and lower respiratory track.

Sodium sulfite

  • Irritation to the skin
  • Irritation to the eyes
  • Respiratory track: inhaling sodium sulfite can irritate the respiratory track and can develop allergies, and even cause breathing difficulties.
  • Headache
  • Heart irregularity
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Central nervous system depression

Pollution prevention methods

  • Developers and stop baths are alkaline and acidic solutions used during photo processing, by mixing them together they become nonhazardous because they will be neutralized and then they can be disposed down the sink.
  • Chemicals that contain silver such as fixers and toners can't be disposed down the sink, they should be labeled as hazardous waste and get treated by specialized agencies.
  • Dark rooms should have silver recovery units, these units makes solutions that have silver nonhazardous.
  • Buy less: buying more than you need can increase the amount of waste.
  • Store the chemicals in the right places.
  • Chemicals should be discharged with the allowed amount and in the designed places.
  • Limit access to the dark room.
  • Limit access to chemicals.
  • Chemicals that can leak should be stored in places where leaks can be spotted.
  • Replace the highly toxic chemicals with less toxic ones.
  • Workers should wear PPE (personal protective equipment) while dealing with chemicals or during work time.

In conclusion, photo processing and many other industries should be fully aware of all the hazards they produce and how environmentally harmful they can be. Proper discharging and storing as well as the prevention methods will definitely help in preserving earth and potentially minimizing exposure and health risks.

Updated: May 19, 2021
Cite this page

Photo Processing And Printing. (2019, Dec 01). Retrieved from

Photo Processing And Printing essay
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