Monday, January 19, 2009

Resin, Safety

On one of the forums I visit, there was a discussion yesterday about safety of resin, two-part epoxy resin EnviroTex Lite, in particular.

I was surprised to see that a few people were very worried about working with the resin. They advised each other to always work in a well-ventilated area (namely, outside or by an open window with a fan next to it), to wear a mask, to not be fooled by a low odor of the resin, etc.
I do respect people's concerns about their own health, and especially about the health of their children. However, it always irritates me very much when people are scared of something for no particular reason, simply because they do not understand it well enough.

I am a chemist with 20 years of laboratory experience, and I've worked with many hazardous chemicals, I also worked with highly-radioactive compounds. I know what danger these compounds can represent to a human. Let me assure you that there are many more things in our daily activities that are much more dangerous than covering a few small pendants with some resin.

When considering health risks from any particular substance, we have to consider not just what it can do to a living organism, but also in what amount shall it be present in order to do it, and how easy can it enter the body.

I said that before, and I will say it again: strictly speaking, any compound is a poison when the doze is right. Even our table salt is capable of killing a man, if he manages to eat a bucket of it. A pinch of salt is a totally different story.

Yes, resin fumes are volatile for the first few hours while it settles. Inhaling those fumes is not a good idea, especially in significant quantities and for a long time. Therefore, if you are planning to cover a big surface with resin, such as your dining room table, or a kitchen counter-top, then by all means, take all the precautions. By the way, a regular mask is not going to help here – it only protects against particles, not vapors. So if you want to use a mask, use a special one. However, the amount of fumes generated when you mix two teaspoons of the resin to cover a few small pendants is simply not enough to cause any health concerns.

EnviroTex Lite resin does have a little odor. I would say, it is comparable to the level of odor of un-covered polymer clay during baking. Some people are more sensitive to these odors than others. When I say “sensitive”, I mean that they find the odor unpleasant, not that it causes any headaches or anything like that. My husband is one of these people – he simply does not like the smell (he is a chemist as well, in case you wonder). To avoid making him uncomfortable in our own house, I usually bake my polymer clay beads, pendants, and vases loosely covered with some foil and do not unwrap them until they cool down. As for the resin, I usually apply it in the evening, then shut the door to my studio, and by the morning the odor is gone. If you do not have a separate room for a studio, the resin-covered project may be left to dry in any place isolated from the rest of the house – such as a utility room or even a closet. In this case, it is a good idea to protect your project from dust. Depending on the size of the project, you can use anything from a paper cup to a shoe box to put over your project while it dries.


Lisa said...

Eugena, do not forget, that people are usually mixing at least a 1/2 cup of resin even for their small projects. The way you teach how to do it is ingenious. Following your tutorials, I am mixing only a teaspoon of resin at a time. Not only does it make the entire process safer, but it also reduces the waste and saves me a lot of material. And with your mixing technique, the resin remains covered all the time up until it is ready to be applied, so again, I do not have to smell it for a long time.

Eugena said...

Thank you, Lisa, both for your kind words and for a good point. I think you are right and the key is in the small quantities of resin needed for mixing it my way.

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