Health Hazards With Epoxy Resins
Health hazards with epoxy resins. This subject is complicated enough to fill thick books and be regulated worldwide, but once understood, is not that difficult to master:
Don’t eat, don’t breathe and don’t touch… before being cured!
Ok, Let’s be serious and see how this can be achieved.
CHILL EPOXY epoxies are thermoset polymers composed of two liquid components that once blended together, react to form a solid piece of material, inert and non-hazardous in nature, and will not vaporize nor melt when heated (hence referred as thermoset).
The RESIN component
CHILL EPOXY’s part A’s are mainly composed of the core epoxy resin that is a non-volatile clear viscous liquid at room temperature, modified with viscosity reducers and additives to adjust end use properties and handling behavior.
Viscosity reducers usually contain an epoxy group that co-reacts alongside the resin with the hardener, so they become chemically linked into the backbone polymer. They are called the reactive diluents. Others may not contain an epoxy group: they are used to tailor physical properties and build in convenient mixing ratio, while contributing to control cure shrinkage, stress and exotherm, in addition to reduce viscosity. They are fully miscible and compatible with epoxy, and are called the non-reactive diluents. All Chill’s reducers, whether reactive or not, exhibit low enough vapour pressure at ambient temperature not to be designated as volatile.
Additives are used in very low concentrations and are considered to remain closely embedded in the cured polymer network. However contrary to the above, they may contain trace amounts of volatiles, but not enough to pose a health threat. Nonetheless, they would be listed on the material safety data sheet whenever present in quantity exceeding the reportable limit.
The HARDENER Component
CHILL EPOXY’s part B’s are formulated with low to medium viscosity amines and/or polyamines that are clear liquids and may contain non-reactive reducers similar to the ones used in the resin portion. As formulated, they exhibit sufficiently low vapour pressures at room temperature not to be designated as volatile.
VOLATILE ORGANIC COMPOUNDS (VOC)
These chemicals based on carbon chemistry, evaporate naturally in the atmosphere at ambient temperature & pressure. Useless in CHILL EPOXY’s casting systems since they must find their way out of the matrix without disturbing it and, if that is easy and beneficial in thin coatings, it is not possible in thick casts. Result: no fire hazard with none of the CHILL EPOXY castings systems.
Health Hazards With Epoxy Resins
Based on this knowledge, liquid components of Chill epoxy systems pose the following health hazards:
INHALATION of vapours
No inhalation exposure is expected at ambient temperature, unless vapours are sniffed closely upon opening the containers, especially with part B’s as all amines (including Chill’s) exhibit a strong ammonia odor when the containers are first opened. Even though it will dissipate rapidly, keep your nose away to avoid sniffing the first puff, as it is truly unpleasant.
Faint odor could become more noticeable when resin (part A) is warm, after long-standing directly under the sun or close to heating units. Ammonia odor of warm hardener (part B) will be stronger and last longer. Keep all containers in a cool area.
Although Chill systems are not meant to be heated during normal use, it must be known that vapours of liquid components at higher temperatures (45+°C / 115+°F) are an irritant to the respiratory tract (epoxy) and/or corrosive (amines) to breathe. In addition, some amines may cause sensitization and/or asthma. Consult MSDS if this situation applies to your operation.
Once blended and curing at ambient temperature without heating supply, components will link together and progressively lose their ability to release vapours and smell, even with the temperature rise in the casting matrix from the exotherm. Exposure to vapours is therefore not expected to occur in these conditions, provided the maximum allowed thickness of the specific Chill system at work is respected. It is recommended though to work in a room equipped with a good mechanical general ventilation system.
Epoxies are mild irritants to skin and may cause dermatitis & lead to skin sensitization. Impervious gloves and forearm sleeves are recommended.
Be aware that dermatitis at or near the pubis region and/or on genitals has occurred when manipulating underwear or touching genitals with fingers contaminated with epoxy resins. Rarely written as such on MSDS’s, that remains a fact that is nice to know beforehand.
Second tip: irritation from resin exposure often occurs at the wrist as we unconsciously touch them with contaminated gloves while removing them (when working with short sleeves), or we contaminate the permeable long sleeve shirt at the wrist (when working in cooler months). Impervious forearm sleeves will prevent such unconscious exposures.
Amines are generally corrosive to skin, and if not, they are strong irritants. As such, pain will occur quickly after contact so prolonged unnoticed exposure is unlikely. But redness and burns will come fast. Impervious gloves and forearm sleeves will protect.
Epoxies are eyes irritant while amines are corrosive and may lead to blindness when left untreated. Contact usually occurs while pouring and/or mixing. Wear safety glasses.
Ingestion is not likely, unless you smoke, eat and/or bite your nails without washing your hands before. In such an event, you would taste it quite fast! Rinse mouth with milk and reject in sink, do no swallow.
Eating and/or drinking large quantity is highly improbable if you keep your children, newcomers, coffee cups and other food & beverages away from the work area. But if that happened, see MSDS’s and react promptly, especially if someone drank a cup of hardener, as amines are highly corrosive to the digestive tract and aspiration of stomach content by medical personnel in hospital would be necessary in order not to aggravate burns of the digestive tube that would occur while throwing up.
Cured CHILL EPOXY PRODUCTS – Health Hazards
As stated above, thermoset polymers are inert and non-hazardous. But…
- They will burn when exposed to extreme heat (like other plastics in a fire) while emitting hazardous fumes and smoke. But they will not ignite easily, like gasoline can do in the presence of an ignition source such as a match or a spark.
- They will emit organic dust when sanded. Dust mask and goggles recommended.
- Non-reactive diluents, usually 10% or less of the total formula, are not chemically linked to the backbone. They are fully miscible and compatible in all proportions with all other components and between themselves, in such manner that it is reasonable to assume, as is observed to date, that they are closely embedded into the polymer matrix and hence do not vaporize in the air during and after the cure. In worse case scenario, one could suspect them to eventually leach out. This hypothesis was formulated, but not yet fully demonstrated or documented. Our observations to date lead us to believe that this process, if ever confirmed, would be very slow and would occur over an extremely long period of time (years). Risk of contact would be minimal, not to say virtually negligible, if the end use product was subjected to some kind of cleaning during its life cycle.
Health Hazards With Epoxy Resins
MSDS’s provide users with complete information about all aspects of potential health hazards associated with our products. We hope you get familiar with them and do not hesitate to call in to further discuss as needed, so you fully understand & implement the good practices that will lead you to follow the “Don’t eat, Don’t breath and Don’t touch until cured” process, which is the best way to stay away from the long word hazards described in supplier’s literature, which normally occur only after long and repeated exposure.