Chemical Hazards in R/C

Mark Greenwood c. 1999.

Incidental graphics by Mike Shellim


Graham's Woods' article about the perils of Epoxy sent me scurrying back to my chemistry degree notes. I uncovered a few surprising facts:


Ever wondered where the strange smell of epoxy comes from? Phenols, including the dreaded oestrogenic bisphenol-A, all have a characteristic odour. In other words they smell of fish. Why is this? It's because phenols are heavily present in fish oils and fats. But this does not mean that eating fish turns you into a girlie, because they're different chemicals, so don't worry.

There's a prize for the first person to cover a set of wings using fiberglass and fish paste. Mind you, it'd probably be better than Solarfilm.

Benzoyl Peroxide

I had a shock when I looked at the tube of Stabilit Express in my toolbox. This contains something called Benzoyl Peroxide, a substance known when I was at University as "Don't bring that bloody stuff near me!" Here's a recipe to have some fun:

Putting this information to practical use tells us that you can make your stabilit express cure faster by exposing it to direct sunlight, or preferably to ultraviolet light.

It also tells us that you can use it to make napalm, but don't quote me on that. (OK - ed.)


The one that really worried me was cyano. I looked up some base cyanoacrylates (the ones they probably use to make Zap from) and was confronted with a page full of warning signs. This stuff makes you cry but also bungs up your eyes. It irritates every mucous membrane known to man (e.g. your nose, the insides of your mouth, your throat). It bonds human flesh in seconds, but then you knew that.

What you didn't know is that, in high enough concentrations, it causes damage to liver, kidneys and brain tissue.


Hold on, don't go throwing it away yet because most of what I've said above could just as easily apply to unleaded petrol if you drank enough of it. Most of us don't go around drinking cyano. Some of us sniff it, but the less said about that the better.

None of the glues we use are remotely dangerous so long as they're used with care. So don't go smearing epoxy over your hands, pouring stabilit express in people's petrol tanks, or stuffing bottles of Zap-A-Gap up your nose. Follow the warnings about using it in a well ventilated area (which usually means 'don't do it in a hot room on summer's day with all the windows closed') and you'll be OK.

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