Medication for epoxy sensatisation

Discussion in 'Boatbuilding' started by laukejas, Jun 28, 2020.

  1. laukejas
    Joined: Feb 2012
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    laukejas Senior Member

    Hi, I know this is a weird place to ask, but I think I got sensitized to epoxy resin, and no doctor I talked to, had any clue as to what it is, and since a lot of boatbuilders use epoxy, I thought perhaps some of you might have any experience with this.

    Ever since I started boatbuilding with epoxy, I noticed rashes and itching on my forearms. Pretty much from day 1. For a long time I thought this might be due to other chemicals, like solvents (acetone, mineral spirits, etc). But now I'm building my third boat, plywood and epoxy construction, and by now I'm pretty sure that the cause of these rashes and itching is epoxy resin itself - not the hardener, nor the fiberglass. I say this because I tried 4 different brands of epoxy with different hardeners, and I haven't sanded fiberglass in a while now. Same for solvents - I haven't used any in weeks, trying to isolate the cause.

    Now, bear in mind that I ALWAYS use proper precautions when handling epoxy. Always working in a well ventilated space (garage with open gates and wind coming through), always wearing gloves, long sleeves when appropriate. I almost never had direct epoxy contact with skin, and on these very few occasions I used soap, water and paper towels, never solvents. I never sanded partially cured epoxy, only fully cured (48 hours or more).

    Surprisingly enough, I get these rashes on my forearms, on my hands and fingers (even though I use gloves!), and now even on my chest. I mean, what the hell, my chest doesn't go anywhere near epoxy! So it's definitely not direct contact. I am unsure if it's epoxy vapor contact with the skin that causes this, or if this is some indirect allergic reaction caused through inhalation of said vapors. Both of these possibilities are surprising, because as I said, I work in well ventilated spaces, practically outdoors.

    I am already doing pretty much everything I can to prevent exposure (wearing a respirator is not an option because changing expensive cartridges every few hours is not affordable, and wearing a full vac suit in a 35°C /95° F is a torture), and I use alternative glues to epoxy whenever I can. The usual "try to avoid and limit exposure" is just not feasible option for me. Boat has to be built when it has to be built, and if you miss the time window between epoxy coatings, you end up with a bad result. And since I started getting these symptoms on the very first day that I ever handled epoxy, rather than being careless for a prolonged time... I think I simply might be a particularly unlucky fellow.

    Therefore, can anyone suggest any medication to make these symptoms milder? I understand that it might not be possible to get rid of them altogether, but I plan to build a lot of boats yet, and I hope for some acceptable compromise. Does general anti-allergy medication help, or is there anything more specific that you'd recommend?

    EDIT: I thought I'd add that I don't have any respiratory issues with epoxy whatsoever. No coughing, no sore throat, no headaches or nausea, nothing at all. Only the skin seems to be affected, even though there is no direct contact with epoxy whatsoever.
     
  2. Mr Efficiency
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    Mr Efficiency Senior Member

    You could get a referral to a dermatologist, and an opinion of what it actually is, it may not be chemical dermatitis, if they don't know the difference, little hope anyone else would.
     
  3. laukejas
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    laukejas Senior Member

    Yeah, I already went to a dermatologist. He didn't know what it is, and when I explained I'm pretty sure it's epoxy, the best advice he could give was "stop working with epoxy". Well, duh... Reminds me of an old joke, "the best treatment for headache is guillotine"
     
  4. Will Gilmore
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    Will Gilmore Senior Member

    Benadryl will lessen the histamine response.
    Wash and wear protection.

    -Will (Dragonfly)
     
  5. laukejas
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    laukejas Senior Member

    Thank you very much!!! I will try benadryl. I do wear gloves, full clothing when possible, and always wash my hands afterwards even though I never come in contact with epoxy on the skin. How else can I improve the protection? I heard that covering your arms (and chest in my case) with baby powder could also help a bit, is that true?
     
  6. Blueknarr
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    Blueknarr Senior Member

    Negative on the baby powder. It preclogs pores so fiberglass needles can't lodge.

    Skin rashes can occur from inhaled fumes. Wear a respirator with an organic vapor cartridge.
     
  7. Eric ruttan
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    Eric ruttan Senior Member

    I suggest you move to vacuum infusion. Almost zero epoxy exposure.

    In the plane building community many projects lasted many years, and many had to be abandoned part way through due to developing epoxy sensitivity. It was very sad.

    A big reason I chose Rob Denney's designs is his construction methods. Also no sanding, which further reduces exposure. The light and cheap are just side benefits.
     
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  8. laukejas
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    laukejas Senior Member

    I will try... But these cartridges are just so damn expensive. I can easily run into hundreds of dollars per day just for these cartridges alone :( I mean, health comes first, but that is just ridiculously expensive...

    I don't think I can do vacuum infusion... This is plywood + epoxy + fiberglass construction, epoxy is used as a glue, filler, fairing compound, and insulator against water... I just don't see any way to use infusion here.
     
  9. Eric ruttan
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    Eric ruttan Senior Member

    I would consider sending an email to Rob. He loves chatting about boats. It may be you are right. It may be he has some thoughts on how to minimise exposure.

    Worth an email i think.
     
  10. fallguy
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    fallguy Senior Member

    Benadryl is not good for you. Do not use it. Claritin or its generic or other drugs for histamine response are far better. See the Beer's study. It is dyphenhydramine. Avoid it.
     
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  11. fallguy
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    fallguy Senior Member

    I use PR88 if I am doing any major work where exposure risk is high. I also use thickster gloves only now. I developed the sensitivity after degloving. I got one dot of it on my wrist repeatedly. One day got the poison ivy.

    Never don't shower after working with it. If you sand; you have epoxy in the hair; around the eyes; PPE is never 100%.

    Run fans over the work area where you are to diffuse the ppm in the air.

    Avoid contact with green epoxy. That is do not enter the area without protection even to look at your project. Encapsulate all epoxy areas if you have a sensitivity or you may break out just riding in your finished boat per my reading.
     
  12. ondarvr
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    ondarvr Senior Member

    Why would you be going through that many respirator cartridges?

    I wear protective gear whenever required, temperature doesn't create an excuse not to.

    My last high temp experience was Lake Havasu, 115F.

    There are some options for pressurized suits that are somewhat affordable.

    You have the option of using the correct PPE and building boats. Or compromising your health, possibly severely, for the rest of your life.
     
  13. laukejas
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    laukejas Senior Member

    Thanks, I will email him right away.

    Alright! I will stock up on Claritine. I used to have severe pollen allergy when I was a kid, and Claritine really helped. I am also ordering PR88. I don't think I can get any thick gloves around where I live, but I will double up on the regular ones. I will also install a big fan in my workshop. I think my body doesn't have any issue with cured epoxy, I can touch and sand it without any reaction whatsoever. It's just the green stuff that gives me trouble.

    Perhaps I am using wrong cartridges, but the usual ones I buy that are meant for chemical vapors, are only good for 4 hours, and cost around $50-60 each. As for temperature, well, perhaps you are more resilient than I am, but I don't want to pass out due to thermal shock while cooking in a full-body suit... I know because it happened to me before. Luckily I didn't fall face-first into epoxy or anything sharp, but it can happen, and it can end very badly.
     
  14. ondarvr
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    ondarvr Senior Member

    The first cartridges I looked up were $17.00 for 2 with free shipping.

    Most cartridges are used for a minimum of a full day. To be honest, they frequently get used for a week or more.

    Doing something to mask the side effects doesn't help with the underlying medical condition the exposure creates.

    My brother in law works in the aerospace industry. He became an inspector, he was frequently in large areas of the structure to inspect it.

    These were fully cured parts, but some dust was present. He is now disabled from exposure, with severe respiratory issues.

    Chemical sensitization is nothing to disregard, solve the exposure problem, you'll be much better off.
     
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  15. laukejas
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    laukejas Senior Member

    Okay, we are clearly talking about different kinds of cartridges. Could you please tell me which type I need to buy to protect myself against epoxy vapors? I am very sorry about your brother. I understand why you are so serious about this. But aside from a respirator, is there a way I can protect my body without having to cook alive in a full body suit? It is just as much of a health hazard. To your knowledge, does the PR88 cream help?
     
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