January 31, 2009

Article Two: Casting VolAsh/Pumice

*Photo, cast of my foot in Pumice*

The conditions in which the large majority of researchers work in, consist of substrates that are no where near the consistency or feel of Volcanic Ash or Pumice. But, none the less, I felt it was important to test various methods using a substrate as fine as this substrate. As many of you know, I began my testing using TriCalcium Phosphate or Bone Ash, then later moved on to soil samples collected from Onion Mountain.

Using an internet link provided to me, I was able to purchase a product called VolAsh/Pumice. Is this "pure" Volcanic Ash, or "Virgin"? I did not have all the answers to that question, so I actually phoned the retailer to make the purchase and requested a specific Item.

Volcanic ash or "Pumicite" is the direct result of a volcanic eruption. As a volcano explodes, the explosion ejects rocks, ash, lava and various gases. The average "lay person" would call Pumicite, Volcanic Ash.

Pumice is ejected during an eruption in the form of various sized rocks (some very small, some very large) or as the result of a lava flow. Both Pumice and Pumicite can vary in size, but there is a difference in how these two products ,of a Volcanic eruption, are created.

This is where being precise is important. It helps to be certain you are not confusing people with your statements.

The product I ordered is the man made result of mining a lava flow in New Mexico. Chunks of a lava flow are mined then taken to a factory and ground to a fine substance, but it is still Pumice.

The company that manufacturers this product "CR Minerals", is very specific on this point. In the condition it arrives to the factory in, it can not be used by various manufacturers, so the chunks of Pumice must be milled down and ground to a fine consistency. I asked the gentleman from CR Minerals a minimum of 5 times, "Is this Volcanic Ash" he responded with a very firm "This is NOT Volcanic Ash". He was so firm on this point, after asking for the 5th time, I did not ask again.

I am sure all of us women who use cosmetics thank CR Minerals for doing their job so well. Yes, this product is used in the making of Cosmetics, along with other products you use, or have at least come in contact with (those things may surprise you).

Lets be clear. Will you have to worry about casting in Pumicite (Volcanic Ash) where you live? Well, most likely not, unless you live near a Volcano. I decided to add this substrate to my tests as I am interested in knowing how casting agents preserve dermal ridges. I will test in as many substrates as become available to me.

I purchased the product I was directed to. And, as promised, the Pumice arrived in the mail.

My first order of business was to examine the material sent to me.

(1) MSDS supplied by the retailer of this product. Also included is the sales receipt. I do find it confusing and surprising the retailer would identify this product as volcanic ash, when the MSDS from the manufacturer states otherwise. But, when you take into account the fact that Crystalline Silica is (2) "probably carcinogenic to humans", it would make sense to me why the Manufacturer would be so deliberate in their comments about the product which they are releasing for use by the general public. Especially with (3) OSHA keeping tight regulations (4) on this industry. The (5) MSDS on the website for CR Minerals is actually different from the MSDS I received from the retailer. The MSDS on the website for CR Minerals lists their product as Amorphous Silica.

(6)This review summarizes the current knowledge about the health effects of amorphous (synonym: non-crystalline) forms of silica. The major problem in the assessment of health effects of amorphous silica is contamination with crystalline silica. This applies particularly to well documented pneumoconiosis among diatomaceous earth workers. Intentionally manufactured synthetic amorphous silicas are without contamination of crystalline silica.

So, knowing there was some discrepancy in the information I received, I proceeded with caution anyway.

Once I read up on what I was actually dealing with (as we all should do, prior to exposure to something that may be dangerous), I then began the process of pouring out enough of the contents of the bag, to fill my baking pan. I was immediately aware of the lightweight nature of this product, as it floated in the air, and hung.

I then began the process of first attempting to cast my own dermal ridges.

I placed my foot in the center of the baking pan, and applied my weight. I was immediately taken with the fact that regardless of the lightweight nature of this product, my foot did not immediately go to the bottom of the pan, as it did with the TriCalcium Phosphate. I was able to apply all my body weight, and not sink to the bottom of the pan.

I then mixed the casting agent (per the manufacturers specifications). The water used was tap water, unheated. The temperature was 65 degrees.

As you can see the end result was a cast that did in fact preserve the dermal ridges of my very own foot. I did observe the "pour mark" as had been evident in all the other casts I had completed to date. Were there artifacts?

My own dermal ridges were preserved, with NO dermal ridge artifacts. So, this experiment shows that if you follow the manufacturers specifications for mixing:

1. Water at air or room temperature
2. Add Casting agent to the water, not the other way around.
3. Use your hand (with a laytex glove) or another object for mixing - no smaller than the width of your hand.

The results you obtain can be relied upon. I performed this test 3 times, and the results were the same. There was no deviation. My dermal ridges continued to be preserved.

While I did not heat the water used to 100 degrees, this test was not about water temperature, it was an attempt to discover if my own dermal ridges could in fact be casted in this very fine substrate. I still think dermal ridge artifacts are possible, my thoughts in this regard have never changed.

But, why did I not have artifacts?

To be continued.....


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