Allegic to Epoxy

So how many people are allergic to epoxy? I started my Annapolis Wherry and even the slightest exposure has me breaking out in a rash. This is my third boat. I didn't have a problem on my first one. The second one had me broken out big time until I realized I was allergic. They say it builds up over time. I have a small patch on the wrist above the line of the rubber glove. I don't even think the stuff touched me this time, but it could have happened during cleanup time. Does anybody have any secrets on how to get over this? Complete alcohol wash-up after? Hazmat suit? Some type of prep befor work?  

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RE: Allegic to Epoxy

Allergies happen when the body mistakes the amines in the hardener for foreign proteins. Unreacted amines can be present on the surface of cured epoxies and in blush. They can also be carried through the air by solvents that are present in the cheaper brands.

Once the allergy actually develops, lack of contact is the only option. Gloves, tyvek sleeves and barrier creams will help you avoid skin contact. A respirator with VOC filters will keep you from breathing the stuff. Sealed goggles will keep the fumes from being absorbed through your eyes

Consider your work clothes and tools contaminated. Leave them in the shop, do not bring them into the house, do not use them for any other projects, do not launder your workclothes, throw them away. Let epoxy cure fully before sanding it and use a dust collection system. Do not touch your work with bare hands until the epoxy is completely cured and has been washed down to get rid of unreacted components. Make sure that the workshop is effectively ventilated to the outdoors. Wash off in the shop before coming into the house.

It might help to switch to a no-blush, no solvent brand of epoxy like System 3's Silvertip if you aren't already using one.

Spreading out your work so that you only work with epoxy for an hour or so, then taking at least a week off will give your body a chance to recover before overreacting.

Finally, seeing an allergist about other measures, including drugs, is probably the wisest thing to do, even though the first thing they'll tell you is to stop doing whatever is bothering you. After a little convincing they'll be able to help you manage the problem to the point that you may be able to finish the boat.

Good luck,



RE: Allegic to Epoxy

Thanks Laszlo.

This is great info. I just ordered some Tyvek suits and head gear and can't wait to get started again.

RE: Allegic to Epoxy

Only this to add to Laszlo's extremely good post:  Some here have reported that they are not allergic to every brand, only to some.

I don't know how this could help you, Ricks, since I don't know how you would find a brand that is ok for you, but maybe this will at least give some hope of a less uncomfortable solution to your problem.

Each formulation uses different amines in the "hardener", and there are also distinct broad chemical classes of amines (cyclic and non-cyclic, etc).  I guess this is why one can get you, and another not.

In fact, some formulations don't use amines at all, but use amides instead.  But I just got way over my head here so I will stop before I say anything stupider than I probably already did, and bring down the wrath of Laszlo (who actually DOES know what he's talking about !)  Amide-based formulas might not even be used in boat-building, or maybe they cause instant death, heck, I don't know.




RE: Allegic to Epoxy

There's an old-fashioned (read powerful but definitely-don't-operate-heavy-machinery-drowsy-making antihistamine called Promethazine (sold here is Australia as 'Phenergan'), available over-the-counter), which might help. I'm allergic to bee-stings and I keep it around all the time.

But, before you do anything, see an allergy doc, as Laszlo wisely suggests. I don't know about epoxy specifically, but allergies can quicky spiral into anaphylaxis, which can kill. You take care.

Your worst case scenario has to be: dump the epoxy and make wooden boats with copper nails, cotton caulking, and apple knees. Life (and that's what its all about!) could be worse than a cedar-on-oak whitehall...


RE: Allegic to Epoxy

David, you're obviously new around here, so I will kindly teach you the way it is. We're ok with all this back-issues-of-WoodenBoat on the hand-hewn purpleheart coffee table, smell-the-eucalyptus-shavings, hear the ringing of the caulking irons stuff. In theory. But when it gets down to real boat-building, we'll take our wood encapsulated in 100% extra-virgin plastic, thankyouverymuch, and pass the Phenargan please. And since you brought up the subject of Oz, what's with the white football that don't even have pointy ends on it? I been to your fair land once, actually, but my heart never got accustomed to the gravity thing, toes would turn white and start to freeze up on me so I finished my contract and came home. To be honest, the people were fantastic, would buy you a Foster's and think nothing of it, almost as if it were a Domestic beer. But where I was working we went out to the company picnic area at lunch one day and darned if there weren't field mice hopping around that were taller than human beings, I got a picture of them if folks up here don't believe me, it's the truth.

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