The following are the most common health problems resulting from overexposure to epoxy products, most of which can be prevented by taking appropriate precautions.
The most common reaction from overexposure to epoxy resin or hardener is contact dermatitis. This type of skin inflammation can be severe, but typically goes away when the resin/hardener irritant is removed. Repeatedly getting resin or hardener on the skin can also cause chronic contact dermatitis, which is usually milder but lasts longer. Without treatment, this type of dermatitis can progress to a skin condition that can include blisters, itching, and swelling. When sanding epoxy, take care not to let partially cured epoxy dust get on your skin because it can also cause contact dermatitis.
Epoxy sensitization (allergic dermatitis) is a more serious condition that occurs when the body has a severe reaction to some type of allergen (e.g., the epoxy resin or hardener components). This reaction can resemble exposure to poison ivy, including itching, swelling and redness. You can become sensitized to epoxy after many exposures, or just one exposure. So it’s best to avoid exposure, if at all possible. Be sure to read the SDS (safety data sheets) for the epoxy resin and hardener so you know what precautions to take, and what to do if you are exposed.
Mixed epoxy is not likely to cause burns, but if you get it on your skin, wash it off immediately because cured epoxy is very hard to remove. Hardeners are corrosive and can irritate the skin or cause chemical burns. If you get hardener on your skin, remove it immediately. Always wear appropriate personal protection, including a proper respirator, and protection for eyes, face, skin, and clothing when working with epoxy resin and hardener to avoid any skin contact.
Your respiratory tract can become irritated if you inhale concentrated epoxy vapors, especially if you work with epoxy frequently or for extended periods of time.
Epoxy sensitization can also result if you breathe highly concentrated epoxy vapor. Epoxy vapor levels can become elevated in warm working conditions, in spaces that are not well ventilated. If you are already sensitized to epoxy, you can have an allergic reaction from exposure to low concentrations of epoxy vapors. Always be sure your work area is well ventilated, and wear an appropriate respirator.
Finally, do not breathe sanding dust from partially cured epoxy, or serious respiratory health problems can occur, including severe respiratory allergies and/or irritation. Always wear an appropriate respirator when working with and sanding epoxy.