Handling Epoxy Safely
Using epoxy can be very fun and exciting, but it is also important to remember that epoxy is a hazardous substance that can prove to be very harmful if not handled with care. You need to follow strict precautions while working with epoxy resin to avoid getting hurt and being sensitized.
Every substance has a safe level of exposure that depends on the level of toxicity of substances. The more toxic a substance is, the less it takes to reach its overexposure threshold. Exceeding safe level exposure can cause health problems.
Protect your skin
Epoxy is considered more harmful when it is in a liquid state compared to when it is cured. Skin contact is the most common route of exposure, which can cause chronic health problems if repeated often.
About 10% of people react when they are exposed to epoxy resin, the reaction is usually a rash, also known as dermatitis. This can be caused by either epoxy resin or hardener. This is usually milder but longer-lasting and turns severe if left untreated. Partially cured epoxy sanding dust can also lead to dermatitis if it comes in contact with the skin.
It is important to avoid getting in contact with epoxy resin, hardeners, mixed epoxy, or sanding dust from partially cured epoxy. Keep vinyl protective gloves in use and wear protective clothing whenever you handle epoxies. If you get it on your hand, remove it immediately. Resin is hydrophobic, so the use of a waterless skin cleanser is recommended, whereas hardener is water-soluble and can be washed with soap and warm water.
Using any form of solvents to remove epoxy from your skin is never recommended. Any solvent can drive the epoxy’s ingredients into your skin, increasing the chances of overexposure. You should stop using epoxy if you develop any reaction and only resume work after the symptoms have disappeared.
Protect your eyes from direct contact with resin by wearing protective glasses and rinse with water immediately if you get any resin in your eyes. Wait for 15 minutes and if irritation occurs, seek medical attention.
Keep the airways safe
Working in congested areas with epoxy can also cause harm. Inhaling epoxy vapors can lead to irritation in your respiratory tract and sensitization. This can be prevented by the use of a respirator, and a mask, while sanding epoxy is also mandatory.
It is important to maintain a clean workshop to avoid incidental contact with epoxy, and if you get epoxy residue on your gloves, avoid touching anything as it will contaminate other things and increase the risk of exposure.
Always remember cleaning up epoxy spills with a scraper and collecting as many materials as possible, following up with wet wipes or towels. Contain large spills with the help of sand or clay. DO NOT use sawdust or any other fine cellulose materials to absorb hardeners.
It is not recommended to dispose of resin or hardeners as liquids; instead, allow them to cool down as an inert solid. To transfer resin or epoxy into a container, puncture a corner in the resin or hardener can and drain them in a new container.
It is also important to remember that epoxy cures by an exothermic reaction and generates heat. The amount of heat generated depends on the amount of epoxy resin left to cure. Make sure to wear protective gear while handling it.