GENERAL SAFETY TIPS & SUGGESTIONS
This general safety tips & suggestions section, can apply to any two part epoxy resins, regardless of brand. This is general information only for safety considerations to be aware of when using any epoxy resins!
Resin is a fun art medium that gives amazing results, but as with so many types of paint and various art mediums, epoxy resins are used at your own risk. There are numerous types of art mediums that artists should consider personal protection for, that also require adequate ventilation. Artists need to do their research concerning personal safety with any art products. Most epoxy resins developed in recent years specifically for art, are much more user friendly, with no VOC ratings, lower odour, and are FDA compliant for incidental food contact. Many resin artists have been enjoying using art type epoxy resins for decades. Like anything, some people never have adverse reactions to epoxy resin, but some may react to epoxy resin right away, and some can build up an intolerance to resin over time. Some artists use personal protective equipment, some do not. At ArtWorks Resin Canada, I believe there are some things frequent resin users (regardless which resin product you use), should be knowledgeable about & aware of:
Disclaimer: Much of the information below is general in nature, non-specific to any particular brand (unless stated otherwise), and randomly presented. In general the information holds true and will help you to be more knowledgeable about safety when using epoxy resins.
1. FDA rating: In the Spring of 2018, FDA changed their wording to include resinous as a material approved for direct food contact, but it is still not approved for liquids or hot foods. Most of the current epoxy resins used in art (including the various brands we carry) will also now fall under this category. Even though this approval rating was changed recently, please err on the side of caution regardless of certifications you might see in marketing materials claiming it as food safe.... these are actually labelled FDA Compliant. The FDA does not certify epoxy resins or manufacturers, they simply create guidelines for manufacturers to follow. The FDA rating is the exact same for all epoxy resins that fall in this category (solid systems epoxies, which all of brands we carry are). The FDA does not give any one resin company a specific approval over and above the others.
2. All the brands we carry, have no strong foul odours (although once hardeners have been opened, the oxygen they're exposed to can cause the odour to get stronger over time) . Keep in mind that just because a label states no VOC's, no or low odour, that does not translate to non toxic or zero odour. Just because a resin does not smell, does not mean it doesn't have vapours. Carbon monoxide has no odour either. All epoxy resins, including ones labelled non-toxic, are still chemicals, and should be treated as such. Their SDS sheets all state to use in a well ventilated area.
3. As a good precaution, always use Nitrile Gloves when working with any epoxy resin (including those labelled non-toxic). Latex, vinyl & rubber gloves are not chemical resistant. Nitrile is a more suited barrier designed to protect against chemicals when working with epoxy resins. If you like to layer your gloves, you can use the regular latex over the nitrile, but make sure you put the nitrile gloves on first. We recommend wearing long sleeves & pants (some resin artists who have had reactions in the past to resins, will use full tyvek suits), and any areas that are not covered you can use a barrier cream.
If you get epoxy resin on your skin, we recommend using baby wipes, soap and water, sugar/salt scrubs or mechanics degreaser soap (such as GoJo) to remove epoxy. ***Never use alcohol, acetone or vinegar, as they can break down the epoxy and alcohol opens up pours which allows it to then penetrate the skin more rapidly. ***This is actually something that often can also cause a person to begin building an intolerance to resins, if they are causing these chemicals to be absorbed by wrongly using alcohol on skin to remove epoxy, or leaving epoxy on skin for prolonged periods.
4. As with all art supplies, users should refer to epoxy resin SDS sheets, for any data they are unsure of. Always use epoxy resins in a well ventilated area. Note: Well ventilated is subject to a variety of interpretations. If using any epoxy resin daily or regularly, consider looking into an air extraction type fan plus good quality air filters designed for use with this type of product in your space. Well ventilated means you need an exchange of air, such as, fresh air coming in, and bad air going out over your work space.
5. Please do NOT use any epoxy resins around children or pets, regardless how safe a products marketing material states it is. Highly recommend users read the Safety Data Sheets thoroughly. If manufacturers won't supply this data upon request, err on the side of caution. If you want a child to participate with epoxy resin, (even those with labels stating safest non-toxic), it is recommended the child should be wearing full personal protective equipment (nitrile gloves, full face organic vapour respirator, and protective clothing so they don't get it on their skin), plus use in well ventilated area only. If these safety PPE measures can't be met, children should not be using epoxy resin (even resins claiming it's safe).
6. Epoxy resin is a great product, that gives amazing results, but people do need to do their own research on any items they use. Please note that manufacturers testing data shown on SDS sheets, is based on the Part A or Part B only. Basic safety protection (users choice), should be adequate when used as per manufacturer's guidelines.
7. However, important note here, many artists often like to add a variety of ingredients (colourants, sparkles, glitters, mixed media, etc) to resin, and to push the limits of what resin can do in creating desired effects & techniques (beyond resin manufacturer guidelines & tested ratings), which with ANY & ALL epoxy resin, can create a potentially different toxicity rating then the ones manufacturer has shown on their marketing &/or MSDS information. This hasn't stopped resin artists from using this medium we love, but extra personal protection measures is important & advised to be used in these circumstances. Many resin artists also use the resin almost daily and much more frequently then an occasional user. PLEASE NOTE: SDS (safety data sheets on ALL resins) are based on the product by itself, not when it's mixed with a variety of other added ingredients, or additional heat manipulating (which sometimes accidentally brings resin to smoke point or can light on fire). Added personal protection (as mentioned above) is highly suggested for resin artists in these circumstances. For those spraying isopropyl alcohol or using alcohol inks, they have very similar health warnings like epoxy resin, for usage.
8. Regardless of brand, any time you bring any epoxy resin (including non VOC/non toxic rated) to a smoke point (past the heat level the manufacturer ratings tested for), it can become toxic (heated plastic), & not ideal to breath in or have that vapour be absorbed through your eyes (eyes can absorb toxin vapours too). This can easily happen by accident when trying to work resin into specific effects, so it's best to use personal protective equipment. Also, due to the possibilities of accidentally over-heating, it's again best not to use near children or pets. More experienced resin users know the tolerance levels of their products, so you may see them in youtube videos not using the PPE by their own choice (while this is not recommended, each artist uses art products at their own discretion).
9. Be aware, if any resin (regardless of non toxic safe claims), touches your skin (especially repeatedly), or if you're pushing it past it's suggested use & breathing it in without protection regularly, it is possible to build up an intolerance to any epoxy resin. Like with many things, an intolerance build up can happen very slowly or quickly People can & have experienced chemical reactions & allergy type symptoms to all brands of epoxy resins (even those claimed as safest and non-toxic). This is why so many resin artists (who use it daily & past suggested use guidelines), highly recommend proper personal protective equipment, (even if you've never reacted before), to prevent the possibility of ever potentially building up an intolerance. Protection is much easier then dealing with completely unexpected reactions or health effects afterwards. This is important for regular users of any epoxy resins. The other thing people need to be responsible for is maintenance and care of their ppe equipment. They need to be fit tested, cleaned & stored properly to be effective when in use. Cartridges also expire, and need to be replaced.
10. If you're not certain that you won't bring resin to smoke point (even by accident), or you want to push for extra effects & techniques, & use added colourants or other materials with your resin, always use a proper fitting respirator rated for Organic Vapours. It should be worn during mixing, & working with the epoxy up until it's cured. These respirators are sold in most places that sell paint, as well as workplace safety equipment stores, and they're also available online. Store your organic vapour cartridges in a sealed container or bag to prolong the life of the cartridges while not in use. A particle mask will not prevent against organic vapours. A full face respirator will also protect your vision, since the eyes can absorb vapours as well. If you only have a half face respirator, then be sure to add safety goggles to protect your eyes from absorbing toxins. These cartridges need to be replaced after so many uses as well. Contact workplace safety supply stores for more information on these items, and about getting your mask fit-tested for proper fit as well. If it's not fitting right, it can't do it's job right.
11. If you need to sand your dried resin, use a mask designed for particles (or change the cartridges to ones designed for particles). Do not use your respirator mask with organic vapour cartridges for sanding, since the resin dust created can clog up the organic vapour cartridges. You can switch cartridges on a good quality respirator for various needs & phases of your project. Wet sanding helps reduce dust particles that get into the air. There are cartridges that offer both organic vapour and particulate options, but you will need to double check which versions they are prior to using.
12. Pretty much most epoxies (if not all) start out with some form of BPA (sometimes it does not have to be reported on sds sheets because it's percentage is just under the amount required for reporting). Now once mixed with the hardener, the bpa or dgeba, makes a chemical reaction and is no longer bpa. When you test the cured epoxy, there is no traces of bpa, or it's so low, that it is then legal to claim bpa free on msds sheets. It's important to understand that this is a chemical reaction, so the two components we start out with, are not the same as what we end up with.
This applies to all epoxy resins, since they are all chemicals, even the ones claiming non toxic, and some with plant based additions. They are all still chemicals, and should be treated as such.
13. Epoxy resins are truly a great product, that creates beautiful results, and is easy and fun to use. When searching for how-to's online, you will see many videos with instructors not wearing PPE, so it is a personal decision and choice for people to wear PPE (personal protective equipment) or not. Epoxy resin can be enjoyed frequently and safely, especially if following preventative measures. But if you have had a reaction, it is recommended to see your doctor, and refrain from using epoxies, until your reaction is cleared up. This is not something we see very often, but it can occur. Once your reaction is cleared up if you decide to use it again, ensure you are using PPE (personal protective equipment), that is cleaned, fits right and is in good working order! If any complications continue to happen with all full PPE measures in place, then you may want to avoid creating with epoxy resin in future.