Author Topic: Safety in Epoxy Work  (Read 15101 times)

Offline jallii

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Safety in Epoxy Work
« on: October 10, 2017, 04:52:25 AM »
The health issues with epoxy seem to have become a hot topic in these forums...

I have studied the issue a little bitt. From what i have learned sofar its about 5-10% of professionals working with epoxy get this allergic disease. So its a very high persentage. Both uncured parts of the epoxy are causing these toxic reactions. Resently cured epoxy contain also partly uncured elements, but by time the toxity decreases, as everything is cured. Although some brands contain some solvents that give out gases, epoxy itself does not give out fumes that are toxic. Its the skin contact that causes the reactions. With the sanding of resently cured epoxy, you also get get exposed to uncured epoxy. Inhaled version is in my opinion the worst as its stays in skin contact internally for long.   

I have noticed, that there are some differences in the policy on epoxy in Finland /EU and USA. The Hazards from epoxy for workplace safety have been officially noticed at least here. If I am not mistaken, these health hazards have not been recognized in the USA. Probably due to strong industrial lobbys working against it. So perhaps its healthy to read a little about how the rest of the world feels about it.

I will post here a link for a PDF file thats done by an expert group, about occupational hazards of epoxy. The reference point is construction work, especially the use of epoxy for covering floors. But you can see that it should apply to other epoxy work also. The resistance is probably due to the fact that epoxy is one of the most widely used chemical in industry. So there are many that do not want to recongnize hazards easily. For example the use of epoxy in plastic bottles used for feeding babymilk has only resently been banned.

(fixed broken link)
« Last Edit: May 11, 2022, 12:57:45 AM by jallii »
I like to find out and really understand things. A perfectionist, curious mind cannot stop learning, and picks up many things. I don't claim to be an expert. I'm not an engineer or a chemist by training. I make mistakes. If I manage to make something understandable I am happy. IF you want to build a boat make sure you follow designers instruction. Do your homework and be safe.

Offline jallii

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Re: Safety in Epoxy Work
« Reply #1 on: October 10, 2017, 07:09:31 AM »
The file in the first post contains information about suitable gloves etc... for epoxy work.
You should of course protect yourself properly...
but remenber also that its best best to get rid if the dust BEFORE it creates problems in the workplace.

That means 4 things.
1. You collect the dust IN THE TOOL that creates it.
2. You use a dust separator BEFORE the vacuum cleaner.
3. You use the RIGTH KIND of vacuum cleaner, or an extremely good industrial strength vacuum with filters for toxic dust.
4. You dispose of the dust properly, preferably outside

The sander should have a hose with dust collection built in the tool. I know festool Rotex is good. Its also expensive. There are others. The main thing is that the dust collection should happen right where the dust is created. This is a topic in itself, but besides the effectivenes in getting the stuff sanded, getting the dust bagged away is also important. Remenber Renns tip on how to avoid sanding altogether by using a scraper when its still possible.

Most vacuum cleaners are extremely bad at getting the dust away. Its more accurate to describe VacuumCleaners as DustSpreaders. There are some fundamental design flaws that cause this, as you will later realize. Even with the best vacuum cleaners you still need a precleaner for the dust, or you will clogg even the best available filter in no time. Attaching a Cyclonic Separator before the vacuum is and ideal cheap solution. This type of filtering is widely used in industry to separate things, and is an old invention. See wikipedia article: Cyclonic Separation. There are several products available for woodworkers in USA. You can goodle for example DustDeputy or  Separators can easily handle large volumes of dust filled air without clogging and still separates some 97-99% of the dust, depending on quality of the separator. Thats just about the same as normal vacuums. The basic idea is to use gravity and centrifugal forces to separate dust from clean air. The system works surprisingly well. With most of the bigger stuff away, the rest won't clogg the filters as fast, as only 1-3% of the finest dust gets into the filter (or is disposed outside). The finest dust is the most dangerous, so you still need a proper filter for toxic dust or get it away from the workplace. In EU thats class H, witch removes 99.995% of dust particles.

-The good and expensive way
Festool has some very good vacuum cleaners with good filters, but they are extremely expensive. Good quality of filtration of air demands extra fine filters. Those high quality filters also cost much and need to be replaced often to ensure continued results. This means high maintenance costs. It also means that the motor and the airtightness and rigidity of the casing must be excellent and the motor powerful. All of this means that the machine costs very much. Thats the price for quality. But there is a fundamental flaw in the whole idea. Every workshop is still covered with fine dust all over, despite these costly machines. Its due to the fact that you filtrate the air in order to release it back to the work place, instead of leading it in a tobe somewhere else, like outside. By leading the air back to the workplace you just multiply the problem, as the dust gets into the air multiple times, over and over again.In the end even the most expensive vacuum cleaner wont help you, beause you just keep recirculating the dust.
-or the cheap and better way
Its much cheaper and easier to lead the waste air somewhere else, outside, than to recirculate it in the workplace air. If something, for example environmental regulation, prevent you form releasin the air with microparticles in it directly outside, its still much easier, and cheaper to build a separate microfilter for it when there are no constrains with pressure or size. To be able to do it  this way you need vacuum cleaner that properly leads the vacuumed air both in and out of the machine in a hose, and does not mix the vacuumed air with motor cooling and spread the vacuumed air around itself. It does not matter if there is a filter or not, as the air is allready filtered. You'll be surpriced how hard it is to find such a version. I found one that costs 149€. The demand for the vacuum and airflow is not so high as the cuclone does the filtering. Its simply a matter of having the vacuumed air flowing separately from the aircooling of the motor. Its easier to do a vacuum cleaner by mixing the airflows, thats why most do. They simply spread the dust around by making the vacuumed air run through the motor of the vacuum cleaner. It does not matter if the manufacturer claims that they have filtered the air, they simply do not have good enough filters for the microscopic dust. It just runs straigth through the filters. Why do you think vacuums for asbestos or other toxic dust particles cost so much? Just ask. Thats what you need as an alternative.

So basically most systems of keeping the workplace free from dust are based on a bad design concept of the workplace.
Even with an extremely effective motor with extremely effective filtering system you eventually have a workplace thats filled with microscopic dust that you just spread around all over again.
The cheaper alternative is using a proper prefilter and getting the waste air outside.

You should get the waste air either outside or filtered properly. If you need to build a separate filter for the waste air its still easier, if it can be done without the constrains of the vacuum cleaner, as you can spread out the pressure over a larger filtering area. Once you get the bulk of the dust away before it even makes the vacuum cleaner there should not be any promlems maintaining the proper flow of air, by either wenting the rest directy outside of with some propper microfilter for the rest.
« Last Edit: October 10, 2017, 07:33:56 AM by jallii »
I like to find out and really understand things. A perfectionist, curious mind cannot stop learning, and picks up many things. I don't claim to be an expert. I'm not an engineer or a chemist by training. I make mistakes. If I manage to make something understandable I am happy. IF you want to build a boat make sure you follow designers instruction. Do your homework and be safe.

Offline Lyle

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Re: Safety in Epoxy Work
« Reply #2 on: October 13, 2017, 04:23:01 AM »
Good information Jallii. I tried to do all sanding outdoors. a rolling building jig is a great help.
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Offline jim shula

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Re: Safety in Epoxy Work
« Reply #3 on: June 16, 2023, 06:10:25 AM »
Good info, Jalli.  I'm always on the lookout for whole house central vac systems on craigslist or facebook.  I've gone through three units in the last twenty years.  They're easy to rebuild, but i got all of them free as take outs from new house owners who convert to battery vacuums.  The central vacs use a powerful motor, have the centrifigal hopper design, and an exit port for air leaving the unit which I ducted to the outside of the building.  The 30' hose is just right for my 32 x 32 shop, and the switch is in the handle.