It is possible to develop an allergy to epoxy resin. About 2% of epoxy resin users will start to develop an allergic reaction to the chemical components of the epoxy resin. Those who see an allergic reaction would develop a response to the epoxy resin in general. This means it’s not just one brand but all the epoxy resins on the market that could affect you.
The likelihood of developing an adverse reaction will increase with the concentration and amount of resin used and the frequency of skin contact, area of contaminated skin, and length of time exposed. People who regularly use epoxy resin become more and more sensitive to it over time, so preventative measures are essential.
Symptoms of a Resin Allergy
The allergic reaction typically shows as skin inflammation, including redness to varying degrees. The redness will usually subside once the exposure has stopped. Other symptoms include:
- Fluid-filled blisters
It can be hard to tell if you have a resin allergy until after the symptoms are already showing. Typically, the symptoms develop slowly over time.
An allergic reaction can be different from other complications that resin users can experience. Resins produce volatile organic compounds, which are dangerous to inhale or be exposed to for long periods of time. Most resins do not produce these toxic fumes until mixed, so they are safer to handle prior to active use. However, the fumes from these products can lead to some health complications, such as chronic respiratory issues.
Reducing the Chances of Allergy
In order to reduce the risk of resin allergy or a reaction to the chemicals, it’s important to remember safety first. Be sure to protect and prepare yourself from coming into contact with the resin itself and the fumes by wearing a respirator. It’s also helpful to understand the specific material you are going to be working with and then receive training for that specific process.
Working in a well-ventilated space or under a ventilation hood is also necessary—especially if you are going to be curing a high number of connectors at a time in a large-capacity oven. Read the Safety Data Sheet before you begin handling, which is available with each hazardous product, so you can review safety and health advice. Be familiar with hazard statements, first aid measures, and the recommended personal protective equipment and processes of respirator safety.
Since an allergic reaction is considered individual, it’s also recommended researching the material you are using and checking to see if there is a more allergen-friendly option. It also helps to discover what gloves are going to be the best for you. Latex gloves are affordable and readily available, but you could also have an allergy to latex. If this is the case, then nitrile gloves may be a better choice. Many will shy away from latex gloves because the gloves can be hard to change when hands are sweaty. If this is the issue, you can also put a pair of cotton gloves underneath your latex ones since this can absorb sweat.
Minimize handling where you can. Proper packaging for the application and the process is also going to come into play. If you need to or choose to work with bulk material, there will be more handling. If you can, choose the least amount of handling with premixed syringes. There are some other factors to consider with this type of epoxy, but the allergy risk is significantly less. Always remember that less handling can mean less allergy risk.
Stay Safe While Resin Is Curing
Resin produces these dangerous fumes for the duration of its cure time. That means that until the resin is completely set, it is still producing fumes that can cause the development of an allergy. Store curing projects somewhere out of the way with adequate ventilation, or store it in a container that can be opened later in a properly vented space.
Once the resin for your project has cured, leave the project to air out for a few more days to “off-gas,” a process during which any remaining fumes are left to air out from the piece.
Other Prevention Tips
Always treat chemicals as though they will cause an allergy and avoid contact with the skin. Wear a long-sleeved shirt and pants, as well as nitrile gloves. If you do get the chemical on your clothes, then remove the clothing and wash the affected area of skin with water and soap. If you are wearing a short-sleeved shirt, use a barrier on hands and arms to prevent the allergy.
Try to work as clean as possible. Be sure to wipe dirty items on rags and not on your pants or shirt. Clean up any resin that spills on your workstation as well, as that resin is easy to accidentally touch while cleaning up or working on other projects.
If you do get any epoxy on your skin, don’t use a solvent. While the solvent will break down the epoxy and make it easier to remove, the solvent will penetrate the skin.