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  1. #1
    Sniper is online now Registered User
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    Default allergic contact dermatitis to epoxy resin

    i have recently developed a significant reaction to epoxy, due to exposure to the dust following sanding. I have always been careful in handling the base materials and have never had any problems before.

    I'm reconciled to the fact that I will have this for life now, but i'd be interested to hear from anyone else who has DIRECT experience of this. Have you found that proper precautions will still allow you to work with the stuff or is simply being in the same room enough to trigger your allergy? What form does your allergy take? (I'm scratching for England at the moment) Does anyone have a problem with being in contact with completely cured epoxy? If you have a reaction, how long does it tend to last?

    I guess everyone's experience will differ but I'm just trying to establish some basic understanding of what might happen. This could be a complete game changer as I've always used a lot of the stuff in the past.

    Experiences welcomed!

    (just to save any unnecessary effort on anyones part, I've got medication including oral steroids, topical steroid creams and antihistamines so I've got that angle covered)

  2. #2
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    I understand your problem. Halfway through building my ply/epoxy catamaran, a 28 ft Gypsy designed by Richard Woods, I developed sensitivity to epoxy. I had been very careless in handling the stuff.
    The work involved a lot of sanding so I was in despair. The rash was very bad and I could not have continued.
    I bought bumper packs of disposable overalls, gloves and sleeves to close the gap between them. I even bought a breathing mask which filtered the air and pumped it. Thank the sky pixie that I did not need this, I found it impossible to work in.
    I found that by avoiding contact with the uncured epoxy, and by wet sanding and a rigorous routine of discarding the protection after each session, as well as washing the work, I could finish the boat.
    Cured epoxy is OK for me.
    I did not use barrier cream but you may well find it useful.
    If you want more information feel free to ask.

  3. #3
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    I know use epoxy routinely, I just take care to avoid contact.
    I have cruised on the boat, so I can live with no effects, and no precautions, within a structure entirely embalmed in epoxy, inside and out. I have painted almost all the epoxy, but I think that this was not necessary for sensitivity reasons.

  4. #4
    prv is online now Registered User
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    I was very careless in handling epoxy in the first year of refitting KS - leaning with my forearms in pools of the stuff while I worked some other part into place, etc. Because I didn't have any reaction at the time, I discounted the warning labels on the pack as unnecessary H&S arse-covering (the dangers of applying this stuff too liberally - when only the occasional bottle had a skull on it you knew they meant it!). I have since developed a relatively mild (by some people's standards) reaction - if I get even a tiny drip of the uncured hardener on me, I get a red and very itchy rash at the point of contact, on my forearms (where I spilled most of it in the past) and usually some other random body part. It usually comes on that night or the following day, and stays for about a day. I try to avoid this, as I believe it is cumulative, but with normal precautions (no air-fed helmets etc) I still use the stuff in normal yottie amounts. I might think twice about building a strip-planked epoxy boat etc. I sometimes feel a generalised slight itchiness when I've been working with it and not spilled any, especially in a warm cabin where the smell gets into the air, but I'm not sure if this is real or psychosomatic.

    Never had any reaction to it once cured, including from sanding dust, though sanding epoxy is not something I do very much since I generally use it as a glue rather than a coating or a filleting mix.

    Pete

  5. #5
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    I have used epoxies from age 15 and am now 65. I developed the allergy in my 30s possibly / propably as a result of dry sanding epoxy inside my house. Over the years my sensitivity has worsened. If I am around epoxy dust I get ill. It starts with prickling around my mouth and if I ignore this I will get severe nausea and respiratory problems. I also have a problem with some kind of dermatitis on my fingers which MAY be linked, however despite visits to a dermatoligist this is not certain as it comes and goes with no detectable link to my use or contact with epoxy, it may be stress related.

    As you can imagine I have to be careful in boatyards.

    However if I wear latex gloves, stay upwind of the work piece using a fan if necessary, always wet sand, take care to dispose of any dust AND shower after any epoxy work ,I can still work with epoxies.
    Monkey patching programmer [retired ]

  6. #6
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    Sorry to hear this - I have always tried to be careful with epoxies, though inevitably you get some on you from time to time. I was surprised to buy recently small multi-packs of Evo-stik Super Fix epoxy putty that were supplied with no gloves and the instructions to knead between your fingers before use. Could not see instructions to use gloves with the pack, though if you look up the safety datasheet online it warns you. Stuff works well, though I used vinyl gloves.

    I know one boatbuilder who had to stop work because of epoxy allergy, and a builder who had to give up because of an allergy to cement. I have one allergy myself: to something in Amoy brand chinese plum sauce. Yet I can eat plums, prunes and plum jam without a problem.

  7. #7
    Sniper is online now Registered User
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    Thanks to you all for those very helpful and constructive responses. It sounds as if there is life after exposure the, as long as careful precautions are taken.

    As i said, I have always been very careful with wet resin and hardener, but always regarded the cured sanding dust as inert and just a general nuisance. For this reason I always mask up when sanding but have been lax with gloves. A couple of weeks ago I was fairing up some laminated beams I had made and was, for my sins, using an angle grinder to take the bulk of the wast resin off prior to sanding. This obviously created a large volume of dust and the backs of both my hands became fairly thickly coated, with some dust creeping up my sleeves under the cuffs of my jacket. I also had a bit of dust across my face above my dust mask. Obviously I washed all of this dust off as soon as I could, so I imagine I was grossly exposed to the dust for no more than about 30-40 minutes. I have worked in this way with epoxy for many years and never had a problem.

    About five days later, I developed some small itchy spots on the backs of my hands which looked like flea bites and thats exactly what I thought they were for a while (I've got three dogs) Over the next 48 hours these grew increasingly itchy and then started to flare up into large angry red blisters across my hands. As I had been stripping out a lot of ivy (not the poisonous sort, just common English house ivy) I thought initially that the raection was to this. I saw my GP who prescribed me some moderately potent steroid cream.

    Over the next two days, the eruptions spread across both hands and because of the skin breakdown I developed an infection (probably Staphlococccal) so back to the GP for antibiotics. Things continued to deteriorate to the point where, on Easter Monday, both hands had swollen up and I couldn't open my right eye doe to oedematous eyelid. Back to the doctors again, this time for additional antibiotics and oral steroids.

    When I looked at the pattern of infection I realised that it formed a very clear line around where I would have been holding the angle grinder grips; it wasn't tree ivy, but epoxy that had caused my problem.


    Things are starting to improve now; my hands are back to a normal size and the infection is gone. This has really shaken me and I can't easily imagine working with epoxy again.
    Last edited by Sniper; 06-04-13 at 17:27.

  8. #8
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    I wonder if the resin dust was not fully cured: I know with GRP that full curing takes a lot longer than just the "gone off hard enough to sand" time.

  9. #9
    Sniper is online now Registered User
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    Quote Originally Posted by jwilson View Post
    I wonder if the resin dust was not fully cured: I know with GRP that full curing takes a lot longer than just the "gone off hard enough to sand" time.
    I suspect you may well be right. Although it was fully hard and had been allowed to cure for over 48 hours in a heated environment the beams had then been moved to a cold garage.

    I wonder how long epoxy takes to be fully cured and inert? Some considerable time beyond it achieving full strength, I suspect.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Horatio View Post
    I suspect you may well be right. Although it was fully hard and had been allowed to cure for over 48 hours in a heated environment the beams had then been moved to a cold garage.

    I wonder how long epoxy takes to be fully cured and inert? Some considerable time beyond it achieving full strength, I suspect.
    If it was a typical West System epoxy then it would 'just' be reaching the 'cured' stage but would not be at full strength. This takes several days at room temp.

    Sounds to me like you had not quite got a full cure and the epoxy was still chemically active.

    Mind you I am sensitive to dust from epoxy that it years old at tropical temps so maybe being it matters not if the full cure has been achieced.
    Monkey patching programmer [retired ]

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