Epoxy Safety – Properly Storing and Mixing Industrial Epoxy Resins

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17 April 2018 - 15:37, by , in Epoxy, Epoxy Grouting, Comments off

Preface

There are many formulations and varieties of epoxy appropriate for a wide range of purposes; almost all are strongly adhesive, electrically insulating, and heat resis- tant. When working with an industrial epoxy of any kind, you will need to take pre- cautions. This e-book addresses some of the hazards and safety precautions of working with industrial epoxy resins. 

Epoxy Allergy 

Never let epoxy resin or hardening agents touch your skin or eyes, and avoid inhal- ing or swallowing them at all cost. While epoxy resin can be toxic, it is the hard- ening agent that typically poses the greatest health risks. 

Epoxy allergy develops over time, and your susceptibility depends on a number of factors including general health, length of time exposed, and working environment. Keep a clean work-space with a separate area for storing and working with dan- gerous materials. Wear safety glasses or goggles and a respirator mask when work- ing with industrial epoxy, and make sure your clothes cover your arms and legs. Most important, wear VINYL (not latex) gloves and tuck them into your shirt sleeves. This outfit may be uncomfortable, but it is the only way to work safely with epoxy for years without developing an allergy. 

If you begin to experience respiratory problems, rash, and itching whenever you work with industrial epoxy, you have become “sensitized” and may find yourself unable to be around it. Failing to take the proper precautions when working with epoxy can result in serious health risks, including asthma. 

Epoxy Mixing Ratios

There are many varieties of industrial epoxy, and some are more toxic than others, so be sure to read the Material Safety Data Sheets and any warning labels that came with your product. Most industrial epoxies actually consist of an epoxy resin and a hardening agent. The two components must be mixed according to a set ratio (for example, two parts epoxy resin to one part hardener) before the product is used. Follow instructions for the ratio carefully and don’t just “eyeball” it.  Once the hardener and epoxy resin are mixed, the epoxy begins to “cure”. Using extra hardener does NOT cause the epoxy to “cure” faster. Avoid waste and only mix the amount of epoxy you need right then; epoxy becomes unusable long before it has completely cured. Also bear in mind that industrial epoxies may become very hot while curing. 

Epoxy Dust 

One danger some people are not aware of is epoxy dust, which is produced by sanding a surface coated with uncured (“green”) epoxy. Try to put off sanding until the industrial epoxy has completely cured, which can take as long as a week. If waiting is impossible, wear your respirator while sanding and make sure you have adequate ventilation. Epoxy dust is one of the most common and serious causes of epoxy sensitivity. 

Storing Epoxy

Epoxy safety doesn’t end when you stop working. Store unmixed epoxy resin in tightly sealed containers in a dry place that won’t be exposed to freezing temper- atures. Keep unused epoxy resin away from children and pets and consult your local laws before disposing of empty containers. Thoroughly clean all tools and all exposed surfaces BEFORE removing your protective gear. Scrub gloves well, laun- der all the clothes you’ve worn before wearing them again, and take a shower as soon as possible. 

From concrete repair to industrial floor coatings, epoxy is a versatile tool that re- quires the user to take precautions. When possible, opt to work with no VOC poly- mer coatings as an economical alternative to coal-tar epoxies. Hybrid no VOC epoxies are more environmentally friendly and do not require hazmat gear to apply.

Definitions 

Epoxy Resin: a thermosetting, synthetic resin used chiefly in industrial coatings and adhesives, such as epoxy floor coatings and concrete repair products. 

Hardening Agent: an amine or amide added to an epoxy resin to create a chemical reaction known as curing. 

Curing: the resulting exothermic reaction when a resin begins to harden after being mixed with a hardening agent. 

Source: Construction Systems Supply Corp. 

 

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