Is Epoxy Sexy?
The Horizon series of programmes on BBC2 are always enlightening but you may have regarded this particular one as just another environmental scare story. It was sexy viewing for the subject was male fertility, or rather the lack of it. So why are you reading this in R/C Soaring? Bear with me for a moment while I give you the gist of the documentary if you missed it.
The programme revolved around new research and the supposition that we have polluted our environment with chemicals. Nothing new here except that men and embryos are the ones who suffer - a staggering fourfold increase (in some cases) in the number of cases of testicular and prostate cancer and male infertility (low sperm count) over the last few decades.
This appears to be related to infinitesimal quantities of oestrogenic (see note 1) compounds entering our environment. Add to this the embryonic female-to-male switch that can be disrupted in the early stages of pregnancy to produce genital abnormalities in infants, and the problem gets worse.
The argument followed the familiar path of trying to find the source of the environmental contamination in nature; pesticides and/or their residues, PCBS (2) and Nonylphenol (3) and hormones from the birth control pill finding their way into our water supply being chief suspects.
The list could cover a myriad of modern day chemicals but there was a chemical included in the list of nasties which just caught my attention as it flashed past on the screen, it was called Bisphenol-A. It rang a bell because I had seen this chemical name somewhere before... This is where modellers enter the picture for anyone who uses epoxy resins is probably exposing themselves to Bisphenol-A.
In my view, it may be present in small quantities in many Bisphenol-A epoxy resins we modellers use, such as the SP range. Given that we are talking about quantities too small to measure, and, over a long period of time, you could spare a thought for your unborn offspring and yourself next time you are up to your armpits in epoxy resin.
I suppose Ive had my fair share of Bisphenol-A epoxy resin over the last 18 years of aeromodelling without really realising all the dangers my hobby has held for me. I daresay the workshop is liberally coated with traces of it and it has probably found its way into the house (and me) as well. Time then for a reminder, in any case, of the dangers of such resin systems.
It pays to be aware ...
I may be scaremongering since no one said anything about epoxy resin in the TV programme but it pays to be aware of these connections bearing in mind that Health and Safety regulations are not mandatory, nor followed, in the home workshop. (UK - ed.)
It goes without saying that you shouldnt get any chemicals in your mouth or eyes and that you should at least use rubber gloves and/or barrier cream to provide some little, not complete, protection. Handwashing is in order too.
Even when the resin has hardened there are warnings given about inhaling the dust from fibre and resin mouldings. I must admit to being lazy in this department in the past myself and shall be more careful in future.
- Compounds that appear chemically similar to the female hormone oestrogen.
- PCBs - Poly-Chlorinated-Biphenyls
- Used as an additive in a wide range of products including plastics and detergents.
Summary of possible hazards
- Skin sensitisation for people with allergies and sensitive skin
- Eczema, asthma, psoriasis and hay fever sufferers beware, you are probably more susceptible.
- Contact dermatitis - a more serious medical condition
- Liver damage - 4,4' diaminodiphenylmethane found in some hardeners (e.g.. Araldite 1927) can cause liver problems if absorbed by the body.
- Fertility, prostate cancer, testicular cancer - Bisphenol-A, a precursor of some epoxies, may be a danger for the reasons explained in the text.