Author Topic: Leaded solder: nothing to freak out about.  (Read 1887 times)

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Offline z.s.tar.gzTopic starter

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Leaded solder: nothing to freak out about.
« on: October 02, 2010, 10:35:54 AM »
From what I've researched, using lead for solder really isn't that bad. Unless you actually eat it or solder in a 3 foot square box with no ventalation, it really shouldn't hurt you more than say skin cancer or drunk driving, which progress much faster than lead poisoning. It isn't really that bad for the environment unless you're just burying a ton of it and letting it leach into the water supply.

What I'm trying to get at is the fact that I've seen lots of stuff around the forums lately (ok, more stuff than usual) about lead free solder being used in hobby electronics and I really really really don't think that one person making robots for fun can make an impact big enough to make lead free solder necissary. For manufacturers, this is a big deal. For you and me, not so much.

On a more practical level leaded solder is easier to use (definitely) and is cheaper (as far as I've seen.)

Please somebody prove me wrong! This is after all an internet forum.
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Offline macdad-

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Re: Leaded solder: nothing to freak out about.
« Reply #1 on: October 02, 2010, 07:42:54 PM »
The only drawback to leaded solder is weird smell but, be a man! 8)

I have to agree that unless your in a box, you won't have any side affects, heck a while back I soldered(Both with Leaded and Lead-Free) in the same room that I sleep, no trouble. Now, it is a good idea to have some kind of ventilation, its just good practice.

This shenanigan over promoting Lead-Free solder is not a big deal(well except for companies), but even if there is lead solder in a PCB, there are very slim chances that a toddler will open up an electronic device(there is hardly any direct contact). Noting as well that the fact that most electronic devices fail at temperature well below the melting point of the solder, so there is little to no chance of contamination.

But what chelmi said in another topic:
RoHS is NOT meant to protect the consumer but to protect the environment and the people in the factory/recycling plant.
That is very true and RoHS would be enforced with the high-output factories, not us humble couple-PCBs-a-month hobbyists. Also noting that I recycle my old solder. :D

But then again its your choice and opinion between leaded and lead-free solder(I just work with whatever I have on stock)
« Last Edit: October 02, 2010, 07:49:17 PM by macdad- »

Offline Admin

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Re: Leaded solder: nothing to freak out about.
« Reply #2 on: October 02, 2010, 08:41:39 PM »
This has been discussed here at SoR before, so here is the quickie summary.

1) There is *no* conclusive evidence that shows lead is harmful to adults (its proven harmful to children, however).

2) There is *no* scientific evidence showing that lead-free (RoHS) solder is either safer or more harmful than lead-based solder. For all we know, RoHS solder is even more harmful!

3) There is no scientific evidence showing lead is contained within solder fumes. Fumes still contain other bad stuff, whether lead free or not, so use a solder fume fan.

4) Solder without lead gets whats called 'whiskers', leading to failure of electronics. RoHS solder also requires higher temperatures to melt properly, requiring more expensive equipment.

5) Shrimp contains relatively large amounts of lead, but people eat it and feed it to their children anyway.


note: This information is based on the last time I researched the topic, in 2008.


edit: fixed a typo
« Last Edit: October 02, 2010, 09:19:19 PM by Admin »

Offline macdad-

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Re: Leaded solder: nothing to freak out about.
« Reply #3 on: October 02, 2010, 09:15:29 PM »
5) Shrimp contains relatively large amounts of lead, but people eat it and feed it to their children anyway.

Isn't that ironic, just as ironic as the EPA's regulations of the Yucha Mountain Radioactive Waste storage site, the radiation leak limits for that facility are lower than that of the radiation limits in a residental home(0.15 mSv vs 0.8 mSv)

Offline blackbeard

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Re: Leaded solder: nothing to freak out about.
« Reply #4 on: October 02, 2010, 09:50:01 PM »
what people don't seem to realize is that solder doesn't evaporate! well... you COULD vaporize lead but you'd need something heftier then a soldering iron. the point is that you're never actually inhaling lead fumes but you are inhaling either the acid or rosin core but you'll get that no matter what you solder with. it is good practice to wash your hands after soldering though since you could transmit lead dust to food.
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Offline chelmi

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Re: Leaded solder: nothing to freak out about.
« Reply #5 on: October 02, 2010, 10:10:05 PM »
Admin, I think your arguments against Lead-free soldering are more general, i.e. they concern the industry, not hobbyist.
That being said, I don't agree with some of them ;)

This has been discussed here at SoR before, so here is the quickie summary.

1) There is *no* conclusive evidence that shows lead is harmful to adults (its proven harmful to children, however).


No. The threshold is lower for children, but the effect of lead on the adults' nervous system is proven. It has also been proven
carcinogen on animals.

http://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/sis/search/r?dbs+hsdb:@term+@na+LEAD+COMPOUNDS

Being cautious is probably a good idea, don't you think ?

2) There is *no* scientific evidence showing that lead-free (RoHS) solder is either safer or more harmful than lead-based solder. For all we know, RoHS solder is even more harmful!


Could you give me your source?

4) Solder without lead gets whats called 'whiskers', leading to failure of electronics. RoHS lead also requires higher temperatures to melt properly, requiring more expensive equipment.


The whiskers issue was more a FUD than anything else. The wikipedia article about RoHS has a section about it. And for the sector where high reliability is not an option (servers, health, nuclear power plants...) they are exempted.

Regarding the expensive equipment, the industry seems to be adapting pretty well. I don't see any significant increase of the prices of consumer devices and I still get my paycheck every month ;)

5) Shrimp contains relatively large amounts of lead, but people eat it and feed it to their children anyway.

I'm sorry, but that's not an argument! Why is there lead in shrimps? because of pollution! And why do we try to reduce our use of lead? To reduce pollution...

I understand RoHS is (was) a pain for the industry. But the effects of lead (and other substances) on the environment are real. More and more people are having access to electronic devices, and at the same time the shelf life of these products is reducing more and more. China and India are already paying the price of our consumerism.
RoHS might be overkill now (and I'm not convinced of that) but if for once we can prevent irreversible damages, then we shouldn't be stopped by economical concerns.

To come back to blackbeard's post, hobbyist shouldn't bother about it. But we might have to switch to lead-free soldering for another reason: it's going to be harder and harder to find lead solder. So let's enjoy our lead solder while we can ! ;)

Offline knossos

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Re: Leaded solder: nothing to freak out about.
« Reply #6 on: October 02, 2010, 10:46:46 PM »
4) Solder without lead gets whats called 'whiskers', leading to failure of electronics. RoHS lead also requires higher temperatures to melt properly, requiring more expensive equipment.

The whiskers issue was more a FUD than anything else. The wikipedia article about RoHS has a section about it. And for the sector where high reliability is not an option (servers, health, nuclear power plants...) they are exempted.

Regarding the expensive equipment, the industry seems to be adapting pretty well. I don't see any significant increase of the prices of consumer devices and I still get my paycheck every month ;)

Yes there may not be an increase in the price of consumer devices, but there IS a decrease in quality of consumer devices.  For example, my dashboard in my minivan has a set of connections that is perpetually going out, and when it does I lose, among other things my speedometer, fuel gauge, lights, etc.    The cause is a poor soldering connection on the headers.  I touched up the connections several times and the combination of poor design, excessive current, and vibration.  Failure recurs after about 2-3 months.  Touched up the last time with lead solder. 2 years and counting now since last repair.

-- Edited for misplaced quotes --
« Last Edit: October 03, 2010, 08:38:55 AM by knossos »
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Re: Leaded solder: nothing to freak out about.
« Reply #7 on: October 03, 2010, 07:45:59 AM »
This has been discussed here at SoR before, so here is the quickie summary.

1) There is *no* conclusive evidence that shows lead is harmful to adults (its proven harmful to children, however).


No. The threshold is lower for children, but the effect of lead on the adults' nervous system is proven. It has also been proven
carcinogen on animals.

http://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/sis/search/r?dbs+hsdb:@term+@na+LEAD+COMPOUNDS

I read through it . . . it states that the problems are only found with long-term exposure by workers. For us hobbyists it shouldn't be a problem to be concerned about . . . anyway, I take my statement back! ::)

Quote
2) There is *no* scientific evidence showing that lead-free (RoHS) solder is either safer or more harmful than lead-based solder. For all we know, RoHS solder is even more harmful!


Could you give me your source?

I had no source at the time, it was a conclusion I drew from being unable to find any information on it after hours of scouring the net. I remember also reading that the effects of RoHS solder was relatively unknown.

That said, here is an MSDS for lead-free solder paste:
http://householdproducts.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/household/brands?tbl=brands&id=15001019

I'm not sure how reliable this information is, but another possible source:
http://dataweek.co.za/article.aspx?pklArticleId=3959


Quote
Regarding the expensive equipment, the industry seems to be adapting pretty well. I don't see any significant increase of the prices of consumer devices and I still get my paycheck every month ;)

Definitely a lot more expensive. I know 'cause I was buying equipment and saw the price costs about 50% higher for lead-free. RoHS also forced many factories to double the equipment they need to handle both solder types.


Quote
China and India are already paying the price of our consumerism.

Actually, I'd blame the environmental problems they are having on local corruption and lack of environmental law enforcement. For example: one reason why manufacturing in China is cheaper than the US is because while companies here spend tons of money to properly dispose wastes, Chinese companies just dump the wastes into their rivers. And good luck with injured worker compensation in those countries!

Offline chelmi

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Re: Leaded solder: nothing to freak out about.
« Reply #8 on: October 03, 2010, 08:01:24 AM »
4) Solder without lead gets whats called 'whiskers', leading to failure of electronics. RoHS lead also requires higher temperatures to melt properly, requiring more expensive equipment.

The whiskers issue was more a FUD than anything else. The wikipedia article about RoHS has a section about it. And for the sector where high reliability is not an option (servers, health, nuclear power plants...) they are exempted.

Regarding the expensive equipment, the industry seems to be adapting pretty well. I don't see any significant increase of the prices of consumer devices and I still get my paycheck every month ;)


Yes there may not be an increase in the price of consumer devices, but there IS a decrease in quality of consumer devices.  For example, my dashboard in my minivan has a set of connections that is perpetually going out, and when it does I lose, among other things my speedometer, fuel gauge, lights, etc.    The cause is a poor soldering connection on the headers.  I touched up the connections several times and the combination of poor design, excessive current, and vibration.  Failure recurs after about 2-3 months.  Touched up the last time with lead solder. 2 years and counting now since last repair.

Are you sure this is due to lead free-soldering and not just a poor job ?

Offline Admin

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Re: Leaded solder: nothing to freak out about.
« Reply #9 on: October 03, 2010, 08:29:54 AM »
Yes there may not be an increase in the price of consumer devices, but there IS a decrease in quality of consumer devices.  For example, my dashboard in my minivan has a set of connections that is perpetually going out, and when it does I lose, among other things my speedometer, fuel gauge, lights, etc.    The cause is a poor soldering connection on the headers.  I touched up the connections several times and the combination of poor design, excessive current, and vibration.  Failure recurs after about 2-3 months.  Touched up the last time with lead solder. 2 years and counting now since last repair.

Are you sure this is due to lead free-soldering and not just a poor job ?
You guys don't seem to have the quotes thing figured out yet :P

Lead-free requires much higher temperatures to solder. If the assembler doesn't heat it high enough (because they are noobs), then you get cold joints that can break under vibration.
« Last Edit: October 03, 2010, 09:28:39 AM by Admin »

Offline knossos

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Re: Leaded solder: nothing to freak out about.
« Reply #10 on: October 03, 2010, 08:42:08 AM »
You guys don't seem to have the quotes thing figured out yet :P

Hehe, my original post had an extra quote tag that I mistakenly left in which messed up his quote too.
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For the greatest tragedy of them all
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Offline TrickyNekro

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Re: Leaded solder: nothing to freak out about.
« Reply #11 on: October 03, 2010, 09:06:33 AM »
That "lead" topic has long to go...

But hey, anyways, wasn't lead clean fuels that killed the carbs???
I kinda miss the cold days I had to pull the chock to fire her up...

Although I would love a VTEC with a GDI system.... :-p

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Offline Soeren

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Re: Leaded solder: nothing to freak out about.
« Reply #12 on: October 03, 2010, 01:15:39 PM »
Hi,

[...] even if there is lead solder in a PCB, there are very slim chances that a toddler will open up an electronic device(there is hardly any direct contact). Noting as well that the fact that most electronic devices fail at temperature well below the melting point of the solder, so there is little to no chance of contamination.
Even if you give a toddler a lollipop made of lead, it wouldn't hurt a bit. According to several MD's and medical researchers I have spoken with on the subject, you cannot assimilate heavy metals like lead and mercury directly from their metallic form.

The RoHS directive is meant to reduce the lead in waste disposals, as acid rain will make some of it seep into the ground, where it sooner or later will turn up as salts etc. being assimilated by lower membors of the feeding chain. We can and do get it from eating fish (if they've assimilated it), so better safe and sorry - don't eat seafood ;)

I have recently done a lot of reading on the subject and bought a spool of the crappy Sn99.3 Cu0.7, which is the cheapest and thus about the only thing available in the hobby market - I have still to test it, but according to some of the solder manufacturers tuts, it's the type that takes about the highest temp of the multitude of unleaded solders that exists.
If 3.8% to 3.9% silver is added, you have a much better solder, near to eutectic operating temperature, much better wetting capability and much less chance of cracks and such.
The alloys named 96TSC/SAC387 is of that type.
This is based on info from partly solder manufacturers and unbiased research scientists, but I have no personal experience with any of them.

I prefer silver loaded tin/lead solders as they wet and flow extremely well (but it's quite expensive, way more than the relatively small amount of silver used can explain) and as long as I can get it I'll probably use that with regular tin/lead for the less critical stuff.
Regards,
Søren

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Offline macdad-

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Re: Leaded solder: nothing to freak out about.
« Reply #13 on: October 03, 2010, 02:06:20 PM »
I prefer silver loaded tin/lead solders as they wet and flow extremely well (but it's quite expensive, way more than the relatively small amount of silver used can explain) and as long as I can get it I'll probably use that with regular tin/lead for the less critical stuff.

What's your opinion on Tin/Antimony Solder, I've used it for the longest and it flow relatively well but is more prone to "stick" to my soldering iron compared to my old roll of tin/lead solder.

Offline Soeren

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Re: Leaded solder: nothing to freak out about.
« Reply #14 on: October 03, 2010, 02:14:41 PM »
Hi,

What's your opinion on Tin/Antimony Solder, I've used it for the longest and it flow relatively well but is more prone to "stick" to my soldering iron compared to my old roll of tin/lead solder.
Never tried it, but antimony is not exactly a good thing (much worse for you than lead in fact, unless the lead's in a bullet going through you of course).
Regards,
Søren

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Please remember...
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Offline z.s.tar.gzTopic starter

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Re: Leaded solder: nothing to freak out about.
« Reply #15 on: October 03, 2010, 06:45:59 PM »
So we can all agree: Using leaded solder is completely safe for hobbyist use, especially when compared to other things that can poison/kill/hurt you much more in much less time. (ex. drunk driving, smoking, not having a working smoke detector, not using fuses in your robots, putting out lithium fires with water, and playing with explosives just to name a few)
Save yourself the typing. Just call me Zach.

Offline Admin

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Re: Leaded solder: nothing to freak out about.
« Reply #16 on: October 04, 2010, 08:16:59 AM »
I wouldn't say 'completely safe'. The term 'relatively safe' is much better - as you point out, considering all the other dangers that we robot builders face.

Offline z.s.tar.gzTopic starter

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Re: Leaded solder: nothing to freak out about.
« Reply #17 on: October 04, 2010, 09:05:00 AM »
Compared to other things lead poisoning is next to zero.
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Offline voyager2

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Re: Leaded solder: nothing to freak out about.
« Reply #18 on: October 05, 2010, 07:03:37 PM »
Really guys, like mentioned above, lead evaporates at a much higher temperature than soldering irons operate at, the smoke is only the solder flux.
I'm sure the flux is bad for you, but still, there are more dangerous things you can do.
If you don't like the flux smell (like me) just get yourself a little fan to blow it away....
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