Working with epoxy resin has many advantages: The material is very versatile and can be used in many areas. However, the resin also has some disadvantages. These include first and foremost the health aspects. In this guide you will find information about how food-safe epoxy resin really is, and what to consider in this context.
- 1 Is Epoxy Resin Toxic?
- 2 Food-safe Epoxy Resin with Test Seal
- 3 Certification in the EU only for Selected Products
- 4 What is Food Grade Epoxy Resin?
- 5 Hazardous Ingredients in Epoxy Resins
- 6 How can you Know how Harmless the Epoxy Resin used is?
- 7 Notes on Work Safety
- 8 Early Treatment of Skin Disorders
Is Epoxy Resin Toxic?
Two basic statements can be made about the toxicity of epoxy resins:
- Liquid epoxy resin is always toxic
- When cured, the resin is non-toxic
A fundamental answer to the question of whether epoxy resin is toxic or non-toxic is not possible. This depends first and foremost on the chemical composition of the respective products, which can vary depending on the intended use.
One epoxy resin can therefore be more harmful to your health than another. Nevertheless, you should always protect yourself as best as possible when working with any resin. Never touch the resin or hardener without protective gloves. A breathing mask can protect you from the harmful vapors. It is also a good idea to use safety goggles so that no resin splashes accidentally into the eyes.
You should avoid inhaling the vapors produced in the liquid state as much as possible. Direct skin contact with the resin is essentially more harmful to health than the vapors. However, the effects of the inhalation of epoxy resin vapors is greatly underestimated. Immediate symptoms such as skin rashes may occur as your skin reacts to the liquid resin.
In the meantime, some casting resins consist at least partially of natural ingredients. In the liquid state, however, even these are toxic.
Food-safe Epoxy Resin with Test Seal
If synthetic resin is to come into contact with food or the skin over a longer period of time, it is important to clarify in advance how food-safe epoxy resin is.
This is the case for example with:
- Coatings of food tanks
- Molds used in the food industry (e.g. chocolate molds)
- Household articles, e.g. fruit bowls or cutting boards
- Furniture made of epoxy resin, especially epoxy resin tables
- Interior coatings of ponds
- Aquariums or terrariums
First the good news: In the EU, the food safety of the resin is marked with its own test seal. There are specially developed products with this seal for the above examples. However, in the case of short-term contact, any commercially available epoxy resin is food-safe and therefore harmless.
Tip: The epoxy resin is non-toxic or food safe only after complete curing. In a liquid state though, the synthetic resins and the resulting vapors are always toxic! You should therefore take care that your skin does not come into contact with the liquid resin.
Certification in the EU only for Selected Products
A few years ago, the various countries individually determined which standards and certificates were necessary for an epoxy resin to be considered food-safe. After a uniform EU directive was introduced, many manufacturers did not have their products tested again and therefore could not obtain a test seal.
On the one hand this is due to the fact that the approval is very expensive for the manufacturer. On the other hand, the obtaining of the seal is attained with a much effort. Therefore, there are only a few epoxy resins with this seal of approval on the market and they are correspondingly expensive.
Accordingly, in the USA the FDA is responsible for the evaluation and certification of epoxy resins.
What is Food Grade Epoxy Resin?
There is no clear definition of what makes a material a food safe material. However, some requirements must be met in any case. These include, for example, the food conformity requirements of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the USA, the Federal Office for Risk Assessment and the requirements in accordance with EU Regulation No. 10.2011.
In principle, a material can be described as food safe if it can come into direct contact with food without posing a health hazard. That means:
- No taste or smell from the material is transferred to the food
- There is no health hazard if the food is consumed after contact with the material
- The material does not release any, or releases very few, free components into the food
- The composition of the food does not change through contact with the material
In case of doubt, contact the manufacturer in advance to find out whether the product is food safe. In order to obtain the best possible quality of the epoxy resin, it is also important to adhere exactly to the recommended mixing ratio during processing.
Hazardous Ingredients in Epoxy Resins
Carbolic acid / phenol
Carbolic acid is nowadays used in agriculture as a weed killer. It is rarely used as a disinfectant at low dosages. In high doses it is considered a nerve or cell poison and can cause chemical burns on contact with the skin.
Epichlorohydrin / prepolymers and diglycidyl ether
These substances can cause allergic reactions upon contact with the skin. The occurrence of contact eczema that cannot be treated is also possible. The effect of both substances in combination is not yet known. Exposure to high concentrations of epichlorohydrin or diglycidyl ether over a long period of time could possibly cause cancer. In addition, escaping vapors can lead to paralysis of the respiratory tract, irritation of the mucous membranes or delirium. In case of very frequent and long contact, nerve damage or kidney damage is also possible.
Tip: The products available on the market show strong differences in their toxicity. Products for do-it-yourselfers and craftsmen are generally less hazardous than so-called industrial goods. These are designed to be processed in factories within isolated rooms with an extraction system, which is why they often contain more toxic substances. You should therefore not save at the wrong end in favor of your health and the quality of the product. The industrial goods that are more harmful to health are in fact considerably cheaper than products for private use.
How can you Know how Harmless the Epoxy Resin used is?
If you have any questions regarding the food safety and toxicity of your resin, it is best to contact the manufacturer directly. As a rule, the safety data sheets of the products are made available on the manufacturer’s website.
Here you can inform yourself about the classification of the ingredients of a certain casting resin. The hazardous substances label is also informative. If in doubt, you can also call the company or customer hotlines and clarify any further questions.
Notes on Work Safety
- Resin and hardener both contain toxic substances before mixing, so you should always avoid direct skin contact.
- After mixing the two components, a chemical reaction takes place, which produces toxic fumes. To prevent inhalation, you should use a breathing mask with an A2 filter as a protective measure. This protects you from harmful vapors and gases.
- To protect your hands, you should use nitrile gloves. Latex gloves do not provide sufficient protection when working with epoxy resin.
- You should definitely protect your eyes from possible splashes with safety glasses.
- If you are sanding, sawing or drilling the cured resin, you should also wear a respirator or breathing mask. Although the casting resin itself is harmless after curing, toxic dust and vapors may be produced during machining and should not be inhaled.
Tip: When working with epoxy resin, the room in which you work should always be well ventilated. For your own safety, wear the appropriate protective clothing also during further processing.
Early Treatment of Skin Disorders
If you notice any changes in your skin after working with epoxy resin, you should not hesitate to see your doctor as soon as possible. If possible, you should rather consult a qualified dermatologist instead. If the skin reactions are not treated promptly, they often become chronic. Symptoms on the skin can also occur when breathing in the epoxy resin vapors, and skin contact is not absolutely necessary for this.
If you observe the processing and safety instructions, epoxy resin can still be a safe, particularly versatile material.