Why Use Skin Protection from Epoxy?
When we select raw ingredients for WEST SYSTEM Epoxy, we search for a balance between desired physical properties and lowest human and environmental health risks. All brands of marine-grade epoxy resins, hardeners, and fillers are comprised of chemical ingredients of varying proportion and toxicity. Only dishonest epoxy marketers will tell you otherwise. Fortunately, WEST SYSTEM Epoxy is carefully formulated to contain only a tiny proportion of the more hazardous ingredients common to epoxies.
Most substances have a safe exposure level. The more toxic the substance, the lower that level will be. Overexposure
simply means the safe exposure level has been exceeded for a given individual. When this happens, the substance can cause health problems. Your immune system and overall health influence your tolerance of a substance.
The Risks of Overexposure
The risk of exposure to resin, hardener, and mixed epoxy is greatest when they are liquid. As epoxy cures, the chemical ingredients react to form a non-hazardous solid. Cured epoxy is also less likely to enter the body.
The most common route of exposure to epoxy resins and hardeners is your skin. This is why skin protection from epoxy is important. Even minor skin contact, if repeated often enough, may result in chronic health problems.
We have worked with and around epoxies since the late 1960s. As boat builders and epoxy formulators, we face a higher risk of exposure to epoxy the casual epoxy user. Through our experiences and the experience of other builders, we can estimate the likelihood of health problems from handling WEST SYSTEM Epoxy.
Skin Protection from Epoxy
Overexposure to epoxy is easily prevented by wearing protective gloves, and for messier or more involved jobs, protective clothing. The low percentage of epoxy users who do develop a health problem typically continue using the products, but make adequate skin protection from epoxy an important part of their routine.
Fewer than 10% of epoxy users develop a reaction when overexposed to epoxy resin or hardener. The most common reaction is contact dermatitis or skin inflammation. Both epoxy resin and hardener can cause acute contact dermatitis. Discomfort can be severe, but this usually disappears after stopping contact with the irritant.
Repeated skin contact with epoxy resins and hardeners may also cause chronic contact dermatitis, which is usually milder but longer lasting. If left untreated for long periods, it can progress to eczema, a form of dermatitis that can include swelling, blisters, and itching. Partially cured epoxy sanding dust, if allowed to settle on the skin, can also lead to contact dermatitis.
Allergic dermatitis is a more serious problem, but less than 2% of epoxy users are likely to get it. Allergic dermatitis is caused by the immune system overreacting to an allergen. Your immune system and the degree and frequency of exposure to epoxy affects your chance of becoming sensitized. You are most susceptible if you are not using skin protection from epoxy, have been grossly overexposed to epoxy, or if you are inherently sensitized or allergic to a component of epoxy. You are also more susceptible if you have fair skin, if you’ve already been exposed to other sensitizing substances, or if you have hay fever, other allergies, or are under stress.
You can’t know ahead of time how much exposure you can tolerate before developing a reaction. You may become sensitized to epoxy after many exposures or just one. It could take ten days of exposure, a month, or even years. Rather than play the odds, use skin protection from epoxy to avoid exposure. The key is prevention, and it will go a long way in preventing allergic dermatitis.
Read about why protecting your skin from epoxy is a better approach
than attempting to clean it off with vinegar or solvents at Epoxyworks.