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Urgent: Chemicals in Piano Making?

Peter T. 20 Aug 03 - 10:16 AM
Uncle_DaveO 20 Aug 03 - 10:44 AM
GUEST,MMario 20 Aug 03 - 10:48 AM
GUEST,leeneia 20 Aug 03 - 10:48 AM
Murray MacLeod 20 Aug 03 - 11:00 AM
Uncle_DaveO 20 Aug 03 - 11:08 AM
George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca 20 Aug 03 - 11:16 AM
Peter T. 20 Aug 03 - 11:21 AM
George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca 20 Aug 03 - 11:42 AM
Uncle_DaveO 20 Aug 03 - 12:06 PM
Bill D 20 Aug 03 - 12:21 PM
Stilly River Sage 20 Aug 03 - 01:47 PM
Peter T. 20 Aug 03 - 02:46 PM
okthen 20 Aug 03 - 02:54 PM
s&r 20 Aug 03 - 03:01 PM
GUEST 20 Aug 03 - 03:22 PM
GUEST,cranky yankee 20 Aug 03 - 05:06 PM
GUEST,.gargoyle 20 Aug 03 - 05:36 PM
GUEST,.gargoyle 20 Aug 03 - 05:56 PM
GUEST,.gargoyle 20 Aug 03 - 06:14 PM
GUEST,.gargoyle 20 Aug 03 - 06:24 PM
GUEST,The cookieless Neighmond 20 Aug 03 - 07:33 PM
Mary in Kentucky 20 Aug 03 - 08:07 PM
Mary in Kentucky 20 Aug 03 - 08:14 PM
Amos 20 Aug 03 - 08:31 PM
Mary in Kentucky 20 Aug 03 - 08:41 PM
GUEST,Q 20 Aug 03 - 09:08 PM
Mary in Kentucky 20 Aug 03 - 09:15 PM
Mary in Kentucky 20 Aug 03 - 09:35 PM
Mary in Kentucky 20 Aug 03 - 09:45 PM
Jeri 20 Aug 03 - 10:24 PM
Stilly River Sage 20 Aug 03 - 11:52 PM
GUEST,Q 21 Aug 03 - 12:10 AM
GUEST,Crowhugger 21 Aug 03 - 12:43 AM
open mike 21 Aug 03 - 03:05 AM
Peter T. 21 Aug 03 - 09:12 AM
Murray MacLeod 21 Aug 03 - 10:44 AM
Jeri 21 Aug 03 - 11:23 AM
wysiwyg 21 Aug 03 - 12:22 PM
GUEST,Whistle Stop 21 Aug 03 - 01:53 PM
GUEST 22 Aug 03 - 04:46 AM
Peter T. 22 Aug 03 - 09:22 AM
CraigS 22 Aug 03 - 07:18 PM
JohnInKansas 22 Aug 03 - 08:59 PM
Peter T. 23 Aug 03 - 08:41 AM
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Subject: Urgent: Chemicals in Piano Making?
From: Peter T.
Date: 20 Aug 03 - 10:16 AM

Don't usually put an urgent here, but I need some information in the next twenty-four hours. Does anyone here know anything about piano-making? I am fighting a big condo development for which there has been no environmental assessment, and it turns out that the history of the area shows that there was a big piano factory on the site for at least 50 years, right by a railroad track (that is another issue, but we have covered that). What kind of chemicals would be needed to make pianos, and would have been on the site? My suspicion is that the site is deeply contaminated. The first thing that comes to mind is wood treating (though maybe it was done off site), but I know nothing about piano making. Mudcatters know everything -- can anyone help?

yours,

Peter T.


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Subject: RE: Urgent: Chemicals in Piano Making?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 20 Aug 03 - 10:44 AM

It occurs to me that it would depend on what functions were carried on there.

Piano making is a complicated beast, and has lots of components. The part that comes to mind as most likely to be polluting is casting the iron (steel?) frame. Foundry operations are notoriously prone to pollution.

However, generally frame casting is, as I understand it, carried on at different types of facilities than the wood functions, such as making the case and of course the assembly functions. I've been given to understand that, of modern times, only Steinway makes their own frames, while all other piano companies(at least in America) have their frames made by a very limited number of specialized foundries.
If the piano factory turned out finished pianos, it's almost certain, to my mind, that the foundry work was not done there. Even Steinway, who makes their own, does so at different sites than final assembly.

I can't guarantee, of course, that there are NO polluting functions in a final assembly plant.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Urgent: Chemicals in Piano Making?
From: GUEST,MMario
Date: 20 Aug 03 - 10:48 AM

I would think the primary pollutants would be lacquers, varnishes, and the various reagents used to thin and/or clean them.


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Subject: RE: Urgent: Chemicals in Piano Making?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 20 Aug 03 - 10:48 AM

Do you live in the US? Talk to your state department of environmental protection, whatever its official name is.

One concern would be lacquer and synthetic lacquers and the solvents used to thin and clean them.


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Subject: RE: Urgent: Chemicals in Piano Making?
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 20 Aug 03 - 11:00 AM

I am racking my brains trying to recall a documentary which I saw on TV some years ago. I am sure it was about one of the Steinway factories, ( in New York State as I remember), and the site was horrrendously polluted. Unfortunately, I cannot remember what the exact cause of the pollution was.

Murray


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Subject: RE: Urgent: Chemicals in Piano Making?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 20 Aug 03 - 11:08 AM

Reading the responses after mine, above, I stand corrected. I don't know why I didn't think of the finishing materials. Seems obvious now. Must be my age.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Urgent: Chemicals in Piano Making?
From: George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca
Date: 20 Aug 03 - 11:16 AM

Not to mention the adhesives used to bond the wood together.

For some limited information on piano making

China's Piano Making
Making of Pianos


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Subject: RE: Urgent: Chemicals in Piano Making?
From: Peter T.
Date: 20 Aug 03 - 11:21 AM

Hmm. Wonder about that Steinway documentary. The piano company I am speaking of (Heintzmann) was making pianos on the site until 1950 or thereabouts. I wonder what would be in the lacquers and varnishes -- any heavy metals anywhere? (Mercury, cadmium, lead?) I am pretty sure they would cast the frames somewhere else.

Thanks for continuing assistance.

yours,

Peter T.


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Subject: RE: Urgent: Chemicals in Piano Making?
From: George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca
Date: 20 Aug 03 - 11:42 AM

Lead might have been in some of the paints. You say it lasted into the 1950s, so it would have been active during the early 20th century when they did have lead in paints.

I'd suggest doing an internet search on "Chemicals in Paint" or Adhesives or Lacquers.

It'll give you more than you EVER wanted to know.

I agree that the casting would not likely have been done on-site. Where are you located?


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Subject: RE: Urgent: Chemicals in Piano Making?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 20 Aug 03 - 12:06 PM

I'm doubtful that a piano manufacturer would be using lead paints. Stains and lacquer and such, yes, but I don't think you'd get the kinds of finish you'd want with a lead paint.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Urgent: Chemicals in Piano Making?
From: Bill D
Date: 20 Aug 03 - 12:21 PM

most lacquers and finishes are only dangerous when wet & volatile, and are relatively benign when old & dry...but 'if' there was large scale use of chemicals, there could be 'some' residues in soil....though I can't see offhand how it would affect condos. Someone locally who remembers or has records of the plant would be your best bet, though hard to find in 24 hours.


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Subject: RE: Urgent: Chemicals in Piano Making?
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 20 Aug 03 - 01:47 PM

Don't think just varnish, think felt. What do they have to do the stabilize the felt hammers, to keep it from being gnawed on by insects and rodents? There is usually some under the strings, also, in some instruments. What chemicals went into that? Think mad-hatter materials. How far back does this plant go? Also, what kind of solvents were used to clean wires, pins, hinges, etc.

SRS


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Subject: RE: Urgent: Chemicals in Piano Making?
From: Peter T.
Date: 20 Aug 03 - 02:46 PM

Continuing thanks, I am getting all kinds of useful leads. yours, Peter T.


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Subject: RE: Urgent: Chemicals in Piano Making?
From: okthen
Date: 20 Aug 03 - 02:54 PM

what was it used for before the piano factory, or was that the only industry? Any mine workings beneath (I know this is a long shot but...)If all else fails, a petition by all the local residents.
Maybe a request to the lawyers on MC who may know of other similar cases, shame you can't find a rare orchid growing on site.


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Subject: RE: Urgent: Chemicals in Piano Making?
From: s&r
Date: 20 Aug 03 - 03:01 PM

Lead paint on the frame? My father was a wood finisher, and I remember he said that some horrendous chemical was used on piano cases in the burnishing stage (spiriting off). Dilute hydrofluoric acid springs to mind, but I find it hard to believe my memories...

Was it acetate sheet on the white keys, or nitro cellulose or similar?


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Subject: RE: Urgent: Chemicals in Piano Making?
From: GUEST
Date: 20 Aug 03 - 03:22 PM

Peter,

I know not where you live, but could you tell us what you have against this condo development?

It might well provide much needed employment for many in your locale. Or might it spoil your view?


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Subject: RE: Urgent: Chemicals in Piano Making?
From: GUEST,cranky yankee
Date: 20 Aug 03 - 05:06 PM

sometimes, you guys look for problems in the oddest places.
I work with the same kinds of wood that good pianos are made of, SHonduras Mahogany, Oak, r
osewood,etc. Steinway used Brazilian rosewoods in their pianosd, but it isn't toxic. HONDURAS MAHOGANY IS TOXIC, BUT ONLY TO THE PERSON SANDING IT, or persons being in the area when someone else is sandinmg.
To my knowledge, except for sHonduras mahogany, no wood used in musical instrument construction is toxic. Furthermore, once the sawdust has been put into the trash ssthe danger is past.
In any commercial woodworking operation, vacuum collectors, and good ventilating equipment is installed. Any wood sanding, sawing, etc operation that isn't equipped to collect sawdust is counter productive for the boss, owner, the guy whod does the hiring, etc. quickly runs out of qualified employees.
I found out about swadust the hard way.
Barclay Warburton III, owner of the Black Pearl Tavern as well as the half brig, Black Pearl, needed a display for Rhode Island's entry at the National Bi-centennial exhibition
He wanted to use the foremast of my little Full Roigged Ship,. "Willaiam K Cove4ll", with it's three mast sections, doublings, yards complete standing and running rigging with deadeye blocks and lanyards properly rigged onto a big plywood replica of the forward section of my little ship. with pin rails, belaying pins, cleats and bits all in their proper locatrions.
"Fud" Benson had designed the "Tall Ships, ASTA logo, which I'm sure you're all familiar with, and wanted to paint this design on my fore tops'l. All of this was very flattering sto me, so I agreed to the project, and, as I was in the process of doing the rigging on the William K. Covell for the coming season's sailing. I took the fore mast rigging spars and doublings to my apartments, which fortunately had a lot of rooms we weren't using.
I was not satisfied with the Mast and yard sections, for such an illustrious undertaking. They were certainly good enough to use on the ship, but maybe the foremast wasn't perfectly round, and the yeards werent perfectly quartered, ie: straight along the trailing edge and top for the entire length, and tapering to the yardarms forward and down from the first quarter, which is octagonal in shape. (look it up)
I can make varnish (or lacquer) look like glass, which isn't at all hard to do. and the white on the doublings, fighting top, , cross trees yardarms, first quarters, likewise look like glass.
The sails were prefect as were the standing and running rigging (of necessity)
The wood sections were Douglas Fir, absolutely clear with vertical grain This is a very benign type of wood, so I didn't bother with proper ventilation or respirator. I rounded, proportioned, and sanded my poor little artistic heart out.
I had a week to finish the masts, yards, etc, while Barclay had someone else do the deck, rails bits and pins. We used my Deadeyes, which were made from baseball bats, and casting wax. Also used my bronze "iron-work", which didn't need fine tunings, and I let someone else polish them. I only took time for about 4 hours of sleep, when I needed it. Captain Warburton bought food, all prepared., up to the workshop at regular intervals, also to inspect th progress being made. I was in heaven, doing the stuff that I really like doing.
At the time deadline, I was completely satisfied with the result. Capt. W. was extatic. WE dismantled the entire thing, wrapped everything in padding to take on the airplane with us.

I was suppoosed to sit on my foredeck, with guitar and banjo and sing and play to my hearts content. I'd used a bood grade of gloss varnish and latex high gloss exterior trim paint. None of those things are toxic, but, I had inhaled considerable quantitie4 of sawdust, varnish dust and latex


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Subject: RE: Urgent: Chemicals in Piano Making?
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 20 Aug 03 - 05:36 PM

A piano-factory is not...an oil-refinery, paint-plant, foundry, chrome-processing, or automotive-disposal-site.

You are grabbing at straws and will come across as a certifiable kook, ninny, or gad-fly.

People need affordable homes and the economy needs jobs.

Sincerely,
Gargoyle


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Subject: RE: Urgent: Chemicals in Piano Making?
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 20 Aug 03 - 05:56 PM

OK we know that it is the area of 115-117 King Street in downtown Toronto.

Checkout the litho of the factory and then use the BACK button lower left to return and browse one of your neighbors who has done a BEAUTIFUL job of restoring a home in the area.

http://whatevernot.com/house/2002-05-18/heintzmann-factory.html

Sincerely,
Gargoyle


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Subject: RE: Urgent: Chemicals in Piano Making?
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 20 Aug 03 - 06:14 PM

wHOOoopps - wrong factory era - we want.....

"Heintzman Tradition" continued well into the 1960s when some 1500 upright and grand pianos were manufactured yearly in <Hanover, Ontario.

Sincerely,
Gargoyle


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Subject: RE: Urgent: Chemicals in Piano Making?
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 20 Aug 03 - 06:24 PM

Neat Lawsuit about the Heintzman piano and unscrupulus business practices by others attaching the name over Korean imports.

http://www.robic.com/publications/Pdf/142.016.pdf

In 1981, Heintzman Limited was purchased by Sklar-Peppler, Inc., who continued to manufacture Heintzman pianos at the plant in Hanover, Ontario. In 1986 Sklar-Peppler decided to close the plant. It sold its inventory of pianos to 487497 Ontario Limited (The Music Stand). The trade mark HEINTZMAN was eventually to be sold to LEGER ROBIC RICHARD, On November 15 1990, the Federal Court of Canada, Trial Division, rendered a decision which helps define the notion of the distinctive character of a trade-mark.

Sincerely,
Gargoyle


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Subject: RE: Urgent: Chemicals in Piano Making?
From: GUEST,The cookieless Neighmond
Date: 20 Aug 03 - 07:33 PM

Looks like people have already covered the casemaking aspect, so I'll stick to the gizzards:

Had they plated their own tuning pins, there would be copper plating residue and Nickel plating residue to get rid of-some kind of acidic solution.

Had they blued their own pins there would be some chemical bluing agents in use, probably with some sulphur content.

If they cut their own tuning pins and music wire, they would have gone through quantities of cutting oil and the like.

It is likely they had their own physical plant and may have used oil or gas to run it.

In making their actions there were many wood cutting steps and gluing processes, but none of the old animal based glue that I encounter is hazardous.

If they made any player actions, they may have used lead for hoses and seals and the like. Also they may have hade some process in place for the manufacture of macanaw cloth for the striker and exhausting pnumatics, likewise a place for the leather used in pouches, couplers (as nuts because they were noisless) and gaskets (except Schultz, who used a nasty little paper-covered pnumatic in leu of a pouch.) Some older player actions were painted with a lead based flat paint, but not many. There aren't many player actions with lead tubing either but there are a few around-Norris and Hyde made one that I know of, as did Simplex, and the Cable-Euphona had lead elbows up to the point just above the top tier of pnumatics, where they changed to black rubber. The hoses were just black rubber, as a rule, and the great hoses between the upper and lower stacks were cloth covered rubber.

Good luck

Chaz


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Subject: RE: Urgent: Chemicals in Piano Making?
From: Mary in Kentucky
Date: 20 Aug 03 - 08:07 PM

24 hrs. huh?????

Look at OSHA-banned substances in laboratories. benzene, acetone

See what got all the service stations (gasoline stations) in trouble with underground tanks leaking.

See what solvents polute the ground around paint factories. (ethyl acetate, toluene, conglomerates of aromatic compounds, monomers used to make polymers (styrene...I'm drawing a blank here). Like Bill said, many of these "carriers" are outlawed because of volatility (Clean Air Act), but I'm not sure about ground pollutants.

There are MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets) which tell you everything you want to know about the chemicals used in a product. But be careful about making claims you know nothing about (like the G man said). Look for another instance of a laboratory or paint factory that polluted the earth. These days many buildings/real estate cannot be sold because of the liability associated with the history of the ground.

Many of the substances mentioned above are totally harmless if disposed of properly. But that may not have been the case prior to 1950. I suspect the most important factor here is not what was present in the factory or what was used in the manufacturing process --- but how the waste was disposed of.

I think looking for heavy metals is too esoteric to pursue in such a short time.

I'll do a quick Google search and see if anything jumps out at me.


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Subject: RE: Urgent: Chemicals in Piano Making?
From: Mary in Kentucky
Date: 20 Aug 03 - 08:14 PM

Just a quick thought here.....you said no environmental study had been done. You're probably familiar with watershed changes when development occurs. Is this a factor? In my limited experiece I know of one city that created terrible flooding problems when they paved too much land for an airport. Also, builders have to take preventative measures for the changes in water run-off when they construct a building/sidewalk/road etc.


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Subject: RE: Urgent: Chemicals in Piano Making?
From: Amos
Date: 20 Aug 03 - 08:31 PM

Don't they have to produce an environmental impact study by law?

A


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Subject: RE: Urgent: Chemicals in Piano Making?
From: Mary in Kentucky
Date: 20 Aug 03 - 08:41 PM

dumdum-dunb here. There were no arificial polymers (plastics or resins used in paints) before 1950 or so. Look at varnishes (many of which are completely natural) and their solvents. Lacquer is harmless but the solvents used to apply it were used in copious amounts. (I'm stretching my knowledge a little too much here...back to Google.)


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Subject: RE: Urgent: Chemicals in Piano Making?
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 20 Aug 03 - 09:08 PM

Suggestions are useless unless you know what processes were carried out on site. Where are the Heintzmann archives?
Product makers are cost-concious. Expensive materials are not scattered to the four winds.
I believe Amos is correct. You do not say that you have contacted the City people who ok construction licenses and carry out assessments.
Have you contacted an environmental assessor?
What is on site now? Houses, stores or mixed? If already residential or mixed, why not a condo on the site?


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Subject: RE: Urgent: Chemicals in Piano Making?
From: Mary in Kentucky
Date: 20 Aug 03 - 09:15 PM

A few googles pertaining to chemicals in wood finishes, IMO before 1950.

lacquer ~ http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lacquer ~ look for solvents such as naptha, toluene (and I think benzene) and ketones (acetone)

varnish ~ http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lacquer ~ look for solvents such as alcohols (methanol, ethanol) in general, the smaller molecules were outlawed first.*****My dad used some spar varnish (marine varnish) when he refinished an upright piano in the 1950s.******

shellac ~ http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shellac


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Subject: RE: Urgent: Chemicals in Piano Making?
From: Mary in Kentucky
Date: 20 Aug 03 - 09:35 PM

In short -- look for benzene in the ground in Ontario.

http://www.ene.gov.on.ca/programs/3923e.pdf


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Subject: RE: Urgent: Chemicals in Piano Making?
From: Mary in Kentucky
Date: 20 Aug 03 - 09:45 PM

Is this lady near you?


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Subject: RE: Urgent: Chemicals in Piano Making?
From: Jeri
Date: 20 Aug 03 - 10:24 PM

Asbestos was in piano and organ felts. Article (although it's mainly just a list.)

In addition to lacquer, varnish, glues, solvents, metals, what was/is in stains? Cadmium is used in yellow and red paint.

There are also possible hazards just because it was an old factory of any sort. Did the building itself have lead paint in/on it? Did it have lead solder in the plumbing? Lead flashing on the roof? Was there asbestos insulation or wall/ceiling material? If the place wasn't torn down and the materials disposed of properly? A lot of junk has been 'disposed of' by plowing it under - not good if they're planning on digging anywhere.


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Subject: RE: Urgent: Chemicals in Piano Making?
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 20 Aug 03 - 11:52 PM

Peter,

Are you resisiting condos in the building that Gargoyle found the photo of? He remarked he had the wrong years with the image, but if you click the "back" button on the bottom of that image it takes you to some interesting information. That building is beautiful. What do you want in there, if not apartments?

SRS


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Subject: RE: Urgent: Chemicals in Piano Making?
From: GUEST,Q
Date: 21 Aug 03 - 12:10 AM

Is the building still there? I agree with Stilly River. If it is, an ideal candidate for renovation into condos and preservation of a wonderful Victorian facade.

Several old warehouse and mfg. buildings here in Calgary have been renovated as condos, offices, restaurants. The condos are some of our best multiple-dwelling accommodations. Much better than bringing in the wreckers, followed by more sterile glass and steel.


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Subject: RE: Urgent: Chemicals in Piano Making?
From: GUEST,Crowhugger
Date: 21 Aug 03 - 12:43 AM

Peter,

Have you talked to your piano tuner? If s/he is a full fledged piano technician, as most seem to be, they'll be able to answer your questions accurately. I have read and re-read a small book about piano making and I saw nothing to suggest there is lasting negative environmental impact from it, as long as the foundry and string making were off-site.
    I would be more concerned with whether any other manufacturing took place in the building or on the site in a previous building.


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Subject: RE: Urgent: Chemicals in Piano Making?
From: open mike
Date: 21 Aug 03 - 03:05 AM

i was thinking felt, too.
the mad hatters got mercury
poisoning from some part of
the processing of felt...
although i am not sure why,
because in my experience all
it takes to create felt is wool,
hot water, soap and agitation.

elephants were not too fond of piano
manufacturing before ivory became
protected!!


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Subject: RE: Urgent: Chemicals in Piano Making?
From: Peter T.
Date: 21 Aug 03 - 09:12 AM

First of all, thanks to those who made an intelligent contribution, I knew Mudcat was the universal encyclopaedia of the air.

Second, I am not involved (nor would I involve Mudcatters) in a frivolous activity (except with guitars). The proposed project (not where people scanning to make trouble think) is a wildly out of scale and inappropriate development in an area that needs decent development. It is against the City's own new plan. The factory was torn down in the 1950s and replaced with a crappy Canadian Tire retail outlet -- the whole site was paved over. No soil testing has been done, and the proponents have filed no environmental assessment or site remediation plan, which they are required to do. The City Council seems to have ignored this, because they appear to have been trying to pass it as quickly as possible, for reasons that may be obvious to anyone who has ever been involved in municipal government. People in the area are understandably concerned, as there will be dirt, dust in the area, and mess for 5 years of construction, not to mention what they may find when they start digging. There is also supposed to be a tiny public park along the frontage. This is only the tip of the iceberg -- there are many other issues I haven't brought here.

This is the basis for the actions being taking, and why I was asking around. Thanks again.

yours,

Peter T.


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Subject: RE: Urgent: Chemicals in Piano Making?
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 21 Aug 03 - 10:44 AM

From Cranky Yankee's post above

"....."To my knowledge, except for Honduras mahogany, no wood used in musical instrument construction is toxic......."
"Toxic" is a misleading and emotive word to use in this context. Literally it means poisonous, and Honduras mahogany is not poisonous. It can occasionally (as can any wood) cause an allergenic reaction , but not nearly as much as rosewood does. Some people can be affected, most people will not experience any ill effects.

Cocobolo, which is a very popular wood in high-end custom guitars, is notorious for the allergenic reactions caused by its sanding dust.

I am fortunate so far in not having experienced a reaction to anything except MDF dust ...

Murray


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Subject: RE: Urgent: Chemicals in Piano Making?
From: Jeri
Date: 21 Aug 03 - 11:23 AM

I think Peter probably knows more about this than I (worked in environmental health for a while), but... solvents aren't really a persistent hazard. It's the inhalation of vapors that's the real problem and once the stuff dries, it's no big deal. Cadmium, maybe; asbestos, maybe, but I believe the hazards associated specifically with piano making would be minimal. 50 years ago and prior, asbestos and lead paints (exterior and interior) were used extensively in buildings. 50 years ago, there wasn't much in the way of site cleanup regulation. The stuff is fine as long as it stays buried, but once people start digging it up...

IF they go ahead and dig up the paving without finding out what's under it AND adequately protecting workers, people who live near the site, and future tenants, it's a lawsuit waiting to happen - before anyone actually gets sick. Additionally, if I were a worker on or near the site, I think I'd be getting in touch with whatever agency is the Canadian equivalent of the US Occupational Safety and Health Organization (OSHA). Major fines, here in the US.


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Subject: RE: Urgent: Chemicals in Piano Making?
From: wysiwyg
Date: 21 Aug 03 - 12:22 PM

I lived next to the exhaust air outflow of a piano refinisher-- drafty living room windows about 15 feet from it. (I was on the floor above their shop. The outflow came up through the garage roof that formed a sort of terrace outside my windows, and the pipe was right at my window level.) I got very sick and did research to see why. They were grinding off the outer layers of piano varnish (or whatever) and using chemical strippers to get the bottom layer off, then applying new finishes. The old finish, the new finish's fumes, and the stripper all contained very nasty stuff.    When I say I was very sick I mean that most of that year I don't remember much except being sick-- my brain was deeply affected at the time and who knows, maybe permanently. (Of course the effect on brain function made it kinda hard to do battle with anybody over it.) The local and regional health and EPA folks were surprisingly unperturbed about all this, but eventually I found the discarded cans of what they had been using, in the building's dumpster. Big red warning labels. Nerve damage, brain damage, etc.

The business eventually closed down and the building itself changed hands. Immediately I could see an improvement. I still can't believe how sick I was, how little anyone cared, and how hard it was to deal with while impaired because of it.

~Susan


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Subject: RE: Urgent: Chemicals in Piano Making?
From: GUEST,Whistle Stop
Date: 21 Aug 03 - 01:53 PM

I have been in the hazardous waste cleanup business for over 20 years, working for both the public and private sectors, and am currently a US state official responsible for managing waste cleanup projects. Let me chime in with a few points:

1. I should first raise an objection to the misuse of environmental laws in support of non-environmental objectives. I see this all the time from people who have an interest in stopping development, but rather than citing the real reasons for their objections (which may be perfectly legitimate), they go fishing for an environmental rationale, whether it be concerns about hazardous waste, endangered species, wetlands, etc., because they think they'll be more successful that way. This sort of thig makes the business of protecting and cleaning up the environemtn substantially more difficult, because all of the ulterior motives cloud the real issues and cast doubt on the sincerity of those of us who are truly in this to protect the environment. If this condo development is objectionable, by all means make your voice heard -- but do it honestly, by pointing to the real reasons you are against it. It's a better approach, because you maintain your personal integrity, and you don't contribute to the disparagement of environmentalists as being categorically anti-development.

2. Having said that, I should correct a few misimpressions. One is that solvents are not "persistent". That may be true on the surface of the ground, where they will volatilize and contribute to a diffuse air contamination problem rather than a localized soil/groundwater contamination problem. But once they get into the soil and groundwater, they can stay around for a long time, depending on a variety of geochemical and hydrologic factors. And if contaminated groundwater is migrating towards public or private drinking water supplies, it can be a very big problem indeed. It only takes a very small concentration of some of these chmicals (measured in parts per billion) to constitute a substantial health problem.

3. Another misimpression that I should correct is that, since manufacturers don't like to waste money, they won't let these substances escape their plants (the reationale being that lost materials translates into increased manufacturing expenses, and no sane manufacturer would knowingly increase his manufacturing costs by wasting his materials). If that were true, we wouldn't have half the environmental problems that we do today. In fact, until fairly recently it was common for spent (used) solvents to be poured directly into the ground, or down floor drains, or buried in drums in the back lot, and it is still common for them to escape from leaky underground tanks and piping, or be spilled during deliveries, etc. Solvents have also commonly been introduced into the environment through condensation from ventilation systems in areas of the plant used for spray painting, metal parts cleaning, etc. Again, as I mentioned earlier, it doesn't take much of this stuff to create a big problem, since health-based concentration thresholds are so low; a slow drip from a leaky vent hood over time is all it takes. And if a plant has been in operation for many years, that means they have had many years to create these problems.

4. Finally, someone before me suggested that you have to look at the totality of what they did at this factory, and I couldn't agree more, whether it's a piano factory, or a shoe factory, or a medical office, or any of a number of other types of facilities. Did they heat the building with oil from an underground tank? Did they have delivery vehicles of their own that were fueled or maintained on the premises? Did they have electrical transformers containing dielectric fluids made with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)? Did they use an abundance of pesticides in maintaining the grounds? Did they paint the building with lead-based paints, or insulate it with asbestos or vermiculite insulation, or toss asbestos shingles or floor tiles in a pile out back when they renovated some portion of the plant? Did they produce marketing brochures using photoprocessing chemicals? You can look at the "obvious" stuff, like mercury in the manufacture of felt (even though the felt was probably manufactured elsewhere and the finished product delivered to the plant), but often it's the less obvious stuff that will turn out to be the real problem.

5. Assuming you are comfortable ignoring my first caution, I think the best you can do is raise your concerns and insist that some testing of soils and groundwater be conducted as a precautionary measure prior to demolition and/or construction. The tests should be relatively comprehensive, since you don't know exactly what you're looking for, and should include the chemicals that the US Environmental Protection Agency (and their counterparts in many other countries) classify as "priority pollutants," including volatile organic compounds (VOCs, including the solvents mentioned earlier, as well as other petroleum derivatives), metals, pesticides, and PCBs.

6. Assuming your objections are well-founded, and your intentions are honest, I wish you good luck with this.

Whistle Stop


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Subject: RE: Urgent: Chemicals in Piano Making?
From: GUEST
Date: 22 Aug 03 - 04:46 AM

A nice living, laughter filled building........................ .........................certainly sounds like a better neighbor...................................................... than an asphalt plane of tires.


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Subject: RE: Urgent: Chemicals in Piano Making?
From: Peter T.
Date: 22 Aug 03 - 09:22 AM

Thanks, Whistle Stop. I hope I am involved in this for the best motives. I am not against development, and the area involved needs it a lot. The concerns are genuine.

yours, Peter T.


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Subject: RE: Urgent: Chemicals in Piano Making?
From: CraigS
Date: 22 Aug 03 - 07:18 PM

In Europe, there are atmospheric exposure levels set for all hardwood sawdust, as it is recognised as a carcinogen.
At the time given, it would have been impossible to make a piano without lead. All pianos used lead in the action. There are little slugs of lead in the keys, hammers and the actuators.
It is vaguely possible that the company prepared its own nitrocellulose varnishes. This could have left very toxic and carcinogenic residues. Also, nitric acid was sometimes used to color wood, and can likewise leave residues.
If the wood was treated in any way, it would most likely have been painted with a solution containing mercury to protect against mold and worm.
While the heavy metals may concern people, I would say that putting a building on top should stop them leaching away into adjoining areas, and is better than growing poisonous cabbages on the site. The toxic and carcinogenic nitrous residues would have little effect through a concrete raft. As long as the contractor is aware that there may be dangers to his workers, building something on the site would appear to be the best thing to do, as the site will be cleared of the bad things. If the site is dangerous at present, it probably represents a risk to children - this risk is lessened when laid under concrete.
I know exactly what it is like to live near, and drive around, a development that will do little to improve my neighborhood, while impairing the short-term quality of life for those near it. While I can sympathise with your situation, I think you might be better off objecting on other grounds, such as impaired traffic flow or loss of parking due to the projected construction activity.


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Subject: RE: Urgent: Chemicals in Piano Making?
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 22 Aug 03 - 08:59 PM

Source: German Varnish Making by Professor Max Bottler of Würzburg, Authorized translation with Notes on American Varnish and Paint Manufacture by Alvah Horton Sabin, M.S. First Edition, 1912, John Wiley & Sons, London:

It just "happened" to be on my bookshelf, but it took a while to find.

The balsams used in that era were largely "natural" tree products, probably not particularly "toxic" although individual sensitivities vary. In their natural state, most of these are "bio-degradable," although incorporation into lacquers and varnishes may make them rather persistent, especially if bound in soil.

Resins used in many lacquers and varnishes of the era share the "natural" origin and characteristics of the balsams, although benzoin – a natural but currently restricted material(?) – was used "as a perfume and to give lustre."

Color resins constituted a distinct class of resins, and include some irritants, but few that would appear to be persistent toxins.

In some varnishes and lacquers, significant amounts of natural asphalt, coal-tar pitch, caoutchouc, vulcanized rubber, pyroxylin, nitrocellulose, and celluloid were used.

Drying oils, principally linseed oil, were largely plant products, although a number of less-used ones were known to be "irritants."

Turpentine, rosin-spirit, petroleum, benzine (petroleum-ether), benzole (coal-tar benzine), chlorbenzol, ethyl and methyl alcohol, ether, acetone (dimethyl ketone) methyl-ethyl-ketone, acetylene tetrachloride, cabon tetrachloride, carbon bisulphide, and chlorhydrin are listed as common process materials and as constituents of varnishes of the time.

Coal-tar colors, later found to be mostly carcinogens, were used in substantial quantities, along with lampblack and mineral colors. Historically, the development in Germany of these coloring agents in the late 1800s was responsible for German "experts" dominating the worldwide market for dyes and pigments through the early to mid part of the 1900s.

"Chemical products" required for making varnish are listed separately, and include litharge, red lead, orange lead, sugar of lead, lead resinate, lead linoleate; manganese suboxide, hydroxide, and dioxide, resinate of manganese, linoleate of manganese; resinate of lead and manganese resinate of zinc.

A quick look at the specific formulas in common use indicates that the lead and manganese materials were used frequently in processing of varnishes and lacquers and of constituent materials, even where they were not considered an "ingredient" in the finished product.

While it is unlikely that a piano manufacturer would have made his own varnishes, the same solvents used in manufacture were commonly used, as thinners and cleaning agents, by "end users" of these products. It is likely that large quantities of benzine, MEK, carbon bisulphide, carbon tetrachloride, and a few other "nasties" were kept, used, and dumped at any such facility.

Sorry, but it's been too long since I read the whole book to make more specific extracts. Note that names and spellings commonly used now may differ from what's in the books of the era.

The number of toxic and volatile constituents of varnishes in use in the period in question makes it almost certain that there is at least some local contamination remaining, although such "opining" can't be a proper substitute for an actual soil test.

John


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Subject: RE: Urgent: Chemicals in Piano Making?
From: Peter T.
Date: 23 Aug 03 - 08:41 AM

Continuing thanks -- we are working on the appeal, which may well involve some of these questions.

yours,

Peter T.


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