More about epoxy dangers

On this forum and others we talk from time to time about health hazards associated with epoxy. In general we talk about skin allergies that can develop. It’s a subject we’ve covered pretty well over time.

I’d like to ask whether anybody - other than professional boat builders or equivalent, has developed nasal or respiratory allergies, or asthma, which has been blamed on epoxy exposure.

I’ve worked with epoxy on and off, on a strictly amateur basis, for about 30 years. I’ve always been very careful about how I use it, take care with what I wear, always use gloves, and always wear a mask when sanding the stuff. I don’t wear a respirator when mixing and applying (though I will be buying one now), but I always work in fresh air - typically in my garage with the garage door wide open, and with a fan on if there is no airflow.

With one exception…

Since I’ve moved to this cold climate, I’ve sometimes mixed and applied small amounts of epoxy in the temperatue controlled environment of my basement. I mean SMALL amounts - one pump only - for small jobs. I’m not talking about laying up boats.

I’ve recently developed nasal allergies, and retriggered some mild asthma (which I’d been clear of for years). We can’t pin down the cause. My doctor is trying various medications for the nasal allergies without a great deal of success.

It’s well known that prolonged and repeated exposure to epoxy can cause nasal/respiratory problems - but I don’t consider my use to be prolonged and repeated - other than in a very minor way. If I worked as a boat builder constantly laying up epoxy hulls it would qualify as prolonged and repeated - but the occaisional pump in the basement? I wouldn’t have thought so.

So experience have others had? Has anyone else developed a constant runny nose, sneazing, coughing and a little shortness of breath they can’t explain? By the way - I’m otherwise fit and am only in my 40s - and a non-smoker. What I’m suffering is a straight-forward allergy to something.

Not looking for medical diagnosis - that’s my doctor’s job. I’m just looking for anecdotal input.

i unfortunately am no where near as careful as you are… i mix polyester resin up to lay up boats, and i epoxied in my basement all the time [until i got kick out and moved up to the garage… where i still do stupid things like that… i have suffered no problems from the stuff, except mulitple dressing downs from different family members about the smell, or headaches they blame on the stuff… but then again, i also seem to be free of the alleged issue of acetone taking all the skin off your hands, that never happens to me either… who knows… [suddenly keels over dead.]:rolleyes:
oh, did i mention i cast lead too?

It’s also been said that exposure to epoxy resins may lead to cancer. Many incidents invoved carpenters, who are exposed to it via glues, and resinous manufactured wood products, and there are some other common cases.

A friend of mine developed some cancer and I think he’s OK now, due to an early diagnosis. He’s the guy that researched all this and brought it to a boat club meeting.

just fyi…

As mentioned before I have developed some epoxy related problems,particulary with one particular brand.A very common and well used brand I might add.

Interestingly I never had a problem and had worked with this stuff for more than 20 years before it raised its head.
When it did hit me it was from a result of building in a poorly ventilated basement in Dunedin winters.By the time I realized what was happening I had become sensitized.
Unfortunatly it never can be reversed…even if you don’t touch this stuff for a year or more,the day you do again you will have the same problem.It is accummlative and never goes away.

Resins with 1;1 2;1 and 4;1 mixing ratios are better in my opinion.The “bad stuff” is in the hardner.

I still use epoxy…I have found a brand that doesn’t effect me so much.I have no doubt it is still harming me.

Are you using the 4 letter brand? I and others belive it to be the worst of the lot in this regard.


Yeah Brett - since moving up here I’ve switched to the four letter brand. Despite being arguably the worst in this context, it is a great product (in terms of building result) and unlike my good old favourite NZ brand (long since gone interntional) I can get the full range of the 4 letter brand up here just by going down the road. One thing about it though - it doesnt smell like the other stuff, so I’m probably less concious of the inhalation issues.

I never need to epoxy fully indoors in Auckland. Unlike Dunedin, even a winters day would usually warm up to 14 or 15 C outside, and under the warmth of the garage roof, even with the door wide open, I still got into a good temperature range for epoxy use.

But here - with daytime temperatures on a good day more like Dunedin, and on a cold day, more like Antarctica, it’s either stop work or bring things indoors where its warm.

The good news is that an organic respirator at the local Home Depot is way cheaper that the same thing was at Mitre 10 or Hammer Hardware.

Yup 420 Sailor - I make my own bulbs too. In fact I moulded a couple over the last weekend, and with regard to that other thread on that other forum - took them out of a single plaster mould, preheated, with no problems. I learned a new trick. As we had snow on the ground, I just tipped the bulbs out into the snow after a few minutes, and the slag out of the melting pot. Scooped the snow up into a paint bucket, and after the snow melted, had all the slag and lead that wasn’t part of the bulb neatly and environmentally contained without contaminating my back yard. The bunnies, squirrels, foxes, racoons, kayotes, deer and cougars that frequent our back yard will be safe from lead poisoning, if not from each other!

I assume you’re talking about “Brand W” epoxy?

I too am guilty of not being as selective in handling material as I should be. The only thing that I truly am scared of is carbon dust and casting lead. Lead is probably the most dangerous in both the health area as well as financial. Do not kid yourself… that “slag” that you skim off the top is by law to be returned to a foundry and properly disposed of… if the EPA finds you throwing it in a trash can, dumping, or basically doing anything other than returning it to a foundry…well… I suppose it depends on where you are and the attitude of the people in charge. There are more than a few that will really throw the book at you. I mean fines, more fines, and possibly even jail time, and fees for clean up… and if you are working in an area where you are not supposed to be… as in residential… get ready for lawsuits from your neighbors and don’t expect the judges to be very sympathetic. The legal shops, such as plating (chrome etc) are almost all gone, out of business around here because the laws are so stringent and fines plentiful and common. Were it not for my good relations with a company that already works in lead, I would not EVEN take a chance casting it.

My Mom remembers her dad melting tire weights into fishing weights on the kitchen stove during the war, and thinking nothing of it… it just smelled badly… wow… please heed the warnings posted here and on other sites about the hazards of the chemicals and elements that are used because many of them… are quite seriously bad news.

Hi Larry,
Man am I glad I don’t live where you do!!

Cheers from downunder

IMO, Fumes from any metal melting has got to be bad news. It’s like breathing in the metal. Chewing on it in the form of a Tums or a slug if Pink Bismuth is something else, but you don’t really know what that slag came from.

I’m collecting mine in a can, and if it gets full, then I’ll have to look for a collection site.

You’re right about that Larry - which is why all my slag and scraps are collected and stored. Also, when finishing a bulb, I work over a big tub so that any scrappings and filings are contained and can be collected. Sooner or later I’ll find an approved home for them. I’m fortunate in that we have a relatively large piece of land and can meet the EPA requirements with regard to distance from a residence (at least least time I looked). I should look again.

I think I said in an earlier thread that we have similar horror stories of our ignorant disregard for lead. When I was a kid, my father and grandfather also made their own fishing sinkers. My grandfather used to press a shape into the clay earth in the back yard to make a mold and then just pour the lead straight in. Horrors!

It is unlikely that a single epoxy exposure, trough the skin or inhalation, can lead to allergic reactions or asthma, generally those effects develop with more exposure trough time. The onset, like all allergic related issues, can be quite sudden, but in order to generate an allergy you need most of the time a couple of exposures. Manny people do not become allergic or sensitive to epoxies even if they use them on daily bases without protections, but that’s more the exception than the rule, and definitely not a good enough reason to use them without protection (gloves, mask and work in well ventilated environment).

That said there are obviously exceptions, but generally the amounts of fumes generated by the use we (basement model boats home builders) do during a boat lay up are not sufficient, especially if used once, to induce asthma o respiratory problems. Completely different story is the dust, especially if it’s associated with carbon fiber, that can be more harmful that the fumes itself.


Hmmmm- four letters of an epoxy product, eh ?




Allergies are such tricky things, what with their ability to pop up severely after years of no effect. I’d be looking first at some cause other than mixing small quantities of epoxy. Many folks who have hay-fever type of allergies are allergic to “household dust,” newsprint, pet dander, and mold, in addition to being allergic to plant pollen.

We don’t have basements here in Louisiana, and didn’t in Texas, either, so I’ve never had one. I’ve been led to believe moisture is often a problem with them, though, and that can easily lead to mold and mildew. We do have a lot of those along the Gulf of Mexico coast!

Whatever the cause is, good luck with finding a cure.

Mike Biggs

I think I’ve worked it out.

I’m allergic to work.

It’s taken a few years to sneak up on me.