IN THIS ISSUE:Occupational Exposure to Epoxy Resins
Epoxy resins are some of the most versatile plastics and have many industrial applications for a variety of purposes. These include adhesives, coatings binder in cement and mortars and many other products. Epoxy mixtures include resin and curing agents, also called a hardener or catalyst, and when mixed form a hard substance.
For the most part, epoxies are not considered to be hazardous, especially in the hardened state. OSHA, the National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH), and the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH), the primary occupational exposure standards making organizations in the United States, do not have occupational exposure limits for epoxy. They do have some exposure standards for the components, however.
Epoxy resins and their curing agents are considered primary skin irritants. Contact with epoxy resins should only be made using gloves and face shields and while working in hoods or well-ventilated areas. Most workers who use epoxies have no ill effects. However, some individuals with prolonged contact may develop a skin allergy evidenced by blisters or other dermatitis conditions. Other individuals may develop an asthma-like condition. Once a person becomes sensitive to curing agents, even the dusts from sanding or grinding the hardened plastics can cause an asthma attack. Heating of epoxy resins may volatilize some of the hazardous components of curing agents and increase the chances of skin, eye, and respiratory irritation and in sensitized persons allergic dermatitis and asthma.
According to NIOSH, working with or exposure to certain epoxies or resins could increase chances of fertility problems, miscarriage, stillbirth, birth defects in offspring. It is important that women of child-bearing age be identified if they work with epoxy resins. Moving employees to a different area or implementing additional controls may be needed. Such controls may include additional ventilation along with use of PPE such as gloves, eye protection, disposable clothing, washing facilities. and respirators.
Epoxies are used to create important industrial and consumer products that can be used safe and effectively. It is important that employers take precautions to protect workers from the health effects of their daily use. In addition, they should quickly identify employees who develop allergic or sensitized effects and provide necessary controls to protect all workers.
OccuSafe Industrial Hygiene & Safety, Inc. provides skills and expertise to recognize, evaluate and control hazards and injuries in the areas of industrial hygiene, occupational safety and health. OccuSafe services companies of all sizes in a range of industries.
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