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Oogamix

Are vinyl records harmful/toxic to human health in the short-term and/or long-term?

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Hi everyone

I was watching this video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aZ2czFuIYmQ starting at 7:25) where they took an air quality meter (it looks like it was this one https://amzn.to/3kBUmCe), placed it beside a record on a turntable and the hazard levels started increasing for both TVOC and formaldehyde.

Therefore, do vinyl records truly pose a threat to human health temporarily or over time? Also, was the experiment performed here solid or are there holes in this? Has anyone tried to replicate this experiment with a similar outcome?

I've encountered many different comments in regards to vinyl toxicity for records and just PVC based items in general (pipes, toys, furniture, etc.). Some say no threat, others always a threat, others say it depends on the offgassing levels, only an issue when its burned, plasticizers used, hard to tell, etc. Same with formaldehyde.

Edited by Oogamix
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What values were measured? How do they compare to safe levels?

Any peer-reviewed research on this?

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Many such products offgas to some extent early on life and then the levels go down.  Think "New car smell."  However, it is short lived.  I'm not aware of any studies specifically on the health hazards, but because it is a short lived process (new products) I suspect it is not a hazard.  If the process were to continue indefinitely I would expect the records to degrade.   I am speculating that it is a short lived process because the new car smell goes away fairly rapidly and also I have vinyl records that are 50+ years old that do not seem to have decayed.

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Here's part of a post someone metaresearched on  the composition on a vinyl record forum. Might give a clue to the chemists here....

Quote

Composition of Vinyl Records -
The thermoplastic resin used to produce vinyl (non-shellac) phonograph records consist mostly of copolymers of vinyl chloride (PVC) and vinyl acetate (PVA). The ratio typically used is 2 parts PVA copolymer to one part PVC monopolymer and the total vinyl polymer can be 75-96% of the record weight. The other 4%-25% are additives that are critical to the production, performance, and stability of the product. Most of these additives are not covalently bound; they are merely incorporated within the polymer matrix and therefore may be leeched out.

The additives include:

1. Heat stabilizers. Record production would not be possible without heat stabilizers whose main function is to neutralize the HCl gas generated at production temperatures. PVC has low thermal stability and degrades in a dehydrochlorination reaction at temperatures above 70 deg C (extruder temps are typically 155C and molding presses are typically at 120C). The reaction is autocatalytic: the released HCl catalyzes further breakdown. In addition to heat, UV and pollution exposure can initialize this reaction over time so it is important not to remove these stabilizers. In fact, it has been shown aging of records can be monitored by measuring the amount of effective stabilizer remaining in the disc (Pickett and Lemcoe, 1959). By scavenging the HCl gas released at pressing, the stabilizers also protect the press stampers from staining and etching, giving them a longer life.
The stabilizers are typically metal salts of fatty acids or similar organometallic compounds (often called “metallic soaps”). The metals are typically lead, tin, barium and/or cadmium and the fatty acids are typically lauric or stearic acid. They typically make up 0.5-1.5% of the resin mix and often, more than one type are added. Some of these compounds also act as releasing agents.
Organophosphite esters may be added as co-stabilizers as they reduce the amount of heavy metal compounds needed in the record. *1 Other stabilizers (e.g. phenolic antioxidants) that protect the polymer during its useful life (e.g. free radical scavengers, UV protection) are sometimes also included.

The organometallic compounds are essentially the components that form soap scum in bathtubs and showers. Hence, it is reasonable when cleaning vinyl records to avoid household cleaning agents (including formulations containing Vinegar) that remove soap scum. Acidic cleaners, in general, might best be avoided so as not to promote the dehydrochlorination reaction, reduce the amount of effective stabilizer, or otherwise reduce the useful life of the product. For the same reason, acid-free record sleeves are strongly advised.

More here: https://www.vinylengine.com/turntable_forum/viewtopic.php?t=99579

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On 10/31/2020 at 2:06 PM, swansont said:

What values were measured? How do they compare to safe levels?

Any peer-reviewed research on this?

Based on the video and the meter he's using, he seems to be measuring PM 2.5, PM 10, HCHO and TVOC, although he ends up focusing on HCHO (formaldehyde) and TVOC. All being measured as mg/m^3.

It seems to be difficult to even find recommended levels of HCHO and TVOC. According to OSHA, they have a permissible formaldehyde level of 0.75 ppm averaged around 8 hours in the workplace. Of course, that's in ppm, not mg/m^3 though

https://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/data_General_Facts/formaldehyde-factsheet.pdf

For TVOC, this website below states that anything above 1 mg/m^3 in the air we breathe is high with anything below 0.5 mg/m^3 being acceptable. Not sure how they came to these conclusions though

https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/volatile-organic-compounds-impact-indoor-air-quality

and not much peer-reviewed research on this either.

22 hours ago, StringJunky said:

Here's part of a post someone metaresearched on  the composition on a vinyl record forum. Might give a clue to the chemists here....

More here: https://www.vinylengine.com/turntable_forum/viewtopic.php?t=99579

Good find.

I noticed there is no mention of formaldehyde here unless its present by default in some of the conditioners mentioned in the link. But formaldehyde to my knowledge is mostly present in woods and tends to have a strong odor (which is something I've never smelled off vinyl records). That kind of raises my skepticism about the study and monitoring device used in the video and why even formaldehyde levels were supposedly increasing.

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Another thing to consider is the period a particular record/s were made in because the formulation/s will be different, hence, hazards may be period-specific. This could be a rabbit-hole coming...

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Most phonograph needles scratch the vinyl as they play.
This microscopic vinyl dust is detected by your gas meter, which has a particulate detector, so it should be easy to check.
The freshly scratched, sub-surface vinyl might off-gas more than older ,surface vinyl.

If you are worried about it, you could always switch to CDs, and use a pre-amp/amp with more aggressive hi/low filtering, giving a more 'rounded' frequency response, for that 'warmer' vinyl sound.

Also, as technology improves, we can detect contaminants, not in PpM, but in PpB, or even better.
However, just because we can measure it, doesn't necessarily mean it can affect us.

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9 hours ago, MigL said:

Most phonograph needles scratch the vinyl as they play.
This microscopic vinyl dust is detected by your gas meter, which has a particulate detector, so it should be easy to check.
The freshly scratched, sub-surface vinyl might off-gas more than older ,surface vinyl.

If you are worried about it, you could always switch to CDs, and use a pre-amp/amp with more aggressive hi/low filtering, giving a more 'rounded' frequency response, for that 'warmer' vinyl sound.

Also, as technology improves, we can detect contaminants, not in PpM, but in PpB, or even better.
However, just because we can measure it, doesn't necessarily mean it can affect us.

I think you have to weigh up the added pollution from playing records to the overall background pollution. I bet it's negligible.

16 hours ago, Oogamix said:

Based on the video and the meter he's using, he seems to be measuring PM 2.5, PM 10, HCHO and TVOC, although he ends up focusing on HCHO (formaldehyde) and TVOC. All being measured as mg/m^3.

It seems to be difficult to even find recommended levels of HCHO and TVOC. According to OSHA, they have a permissible formaldehyde level of 0.75 ppm averaged around 8 hours in the workplace. Of course, that's in ppm, not mg/m^3 though

https://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/data_General_Facts/formaldehyde-factsheet.pdf

For TVOC, this website below states that anything above 1 mg/m^3 in the air we breathe is high with anything below 0.5 mg/m^3 being acceptable. Not sure how they came to these conclusions though

https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/volatile-organic-compounds-impact-indoor-air-quality

and not much peer-reviewed research on this either.

Good find.

I noticed there is no mention of formaldehyde here unless its present by default in some of the conditioners mentioned in the link. But formaldehyde to my knowledge is mostly present in woods and tends to have a strong odor (which is something I've never smelled off vinyl records). That kind of raises my skepticism about the study and monitoring device used in the video and why even formaldehyde levels were supposedly increasing.

Formaldehyde was used directly around 1912, when the plastic used then was more like Bakelite. I've forgotten the link now.

Edited by StringJunky

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18 minutes ago, StringJunky said:

Formaldehyde was used directly around 1912,

My understanding is that the early disks  were made from shellac with fillers. (earlier work had been done with metal foils and with wax.)

Bakelite (and similar materials ) would have been harder to work with.

I'm not aware of any that used formaldehyde.

9 hours ago, MigL said:

Also, as technology improves, we can detect contaminants, not in PpM, but in PpB, or even better.

Part per trillion is not uncommon.
Part per quadrillion is sometimes achieved.

Radon concentrations are measured down at part per quintillion levels.

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13 minutes ago, John Cuthber said:

My understanding is that the early disks  were made from shellac with fillers. (earlier work had been done with metal foils and with wax.)

Bakelite (and similar materials ) would have been harder to work with.

I'm not aware of any that used formaldehyde.

It was used for a period of years but never took off due to expense. Found the article:

Quote

dison and Aylsworth advanced the chemistry of records in 1912 when they brought in Condensite, a phenol-formaldehyde resin similar to Bakelite which had been invented five years previous. The sound and finish were far superior to shellac, but the high price of Condensite meant it wasn’t as popular. 

https://www.coda-plastics.co.uk/blog/a-history-of-vinyl-the-plastic-of-pop

 

Edited by StringJunky

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14 minutes ago, John Cuthber said:

Interesting: I wonder how many of them are still around.

I've got shitloads of them: I wonder how many decks are around.

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20 minutes ago, John Cuthber said:

Interesting: I wonder how many of them are still around.

 

They will be extremely rare, going by this snippet of company history and probably didn't have stabilisers. Would they be perished now?

Quote

1910 - Jonas Aylsworth founds the Condensite Company of America to manufacture phenolic resin products both of his own technology, and under licence from Leo Baekeland. In turn, the the Condensite Company of America licenses Mouldensite Limited to manufacture phenolic materials in Britain.

1922 - The Condensite Company of America is merged with the 'General Bakelite Company', and the Redmanol Chemical Products Company, to form the Bakelite Corporation.

https://collection.sciencemuseumgroup.org.uk/people/cp135356/condensite-company-of-america

Looks like a forced merger in 1922:

Quote

The Bakelite Corporation was formed in 1922 after patent litigation favorable to Baekeland, from a merger of three companies: Baekeland's General Bakelite Company; the Condensite Company, founded by J.W. Aylesworth; and the Redmanol Chemical Products Company, founded by Lawrence V. Redman.[13] Under director of advertising and public relations Allan Brown, who came to Bakelite from Condensite, Bakelite was aggressively marketed as "the material of a thousand uses".[7]:58–59[14] A filing for a trademark featuring the letter B above the mathematical symbol for infinity was made August 25, 1925, and claimed the mark was in use as of December 1, 1924. A wide variety of uses were listed in their trademark applications.[15]  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bakelite

 

Edited by StringJunky

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4 minutes ago, zapatos said:

This one was bad for my health...

More support for the theory that shellac was to blame. Looks like Jesus could have used those ladies as battering rams.

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4 hours ago, zapatos said:

This one was bad for my health...

Effects depend on the amount of exposure. :D

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52 minutes ago, John Cuthber said:

Not quite rare enough.

Really? There may be Adam's apples under those scarves.

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On 11/1/2020 at 2:24 PM, Oogamix said:

It seems to be difficult to even find recommended levels of HCHO and TVOC. According to OSHA, they have a permissible formaldehyde level of 0.75 ppm averaged around 8 hours in the workplace. Of course, that's in ppm, not mg/m^3 though

You can simply convert the measures.

So 0.75 PPM formaldehyde would be around 0.9 mg/m3. (assuming 1 Atmosphere and 20 C and I did not screw up the calculation)

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