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Superglue Sensitivity WARNING! Customizers please read!!


Jin Saotome
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This post is meant to inform you, not scare you, as to the issue of Super Glue Sensitivity. As you know I try not to blow things out of proportion and I don't misguide people with my information. I take the hobby of customization very seriously and look to help everyone I can no matter their level of involvement in the craft.

 

I'm sure you all know what Super Glue is. It's more scientifically known as Cyanoacrylate Glue and almost every customizer uses it to adhere plastic parts together and what not. We use a lot of it, more so than regular folks who just need to repair a mug or a fingernail once a month. We use this stuff every day sometimes. And there lies a danger not many are aware of. Without all the fancy science-speak about cyanoacrylate monomers and such, here's the skinny:

 

Your body will eventually react to an overexposure of Super Glue vapors and you will suddenly become allergic to it.

 

Scary? Could be. Some people use it a few times and become allergic. Some people use it for 5 years and become allergic. It depends on how long you've been using Super Glue and how your body reacts to it, each person is different. But no matter who you are your body is still absorbing something and it's like a ticking clock. The bad part is that once you develop an allergy to Super Glue it's there for life. In all the reported cases I've checked through, even asking my two medical friends, there's no real way to reverse it. You'll always have a reaction after you develop and allergy to it. One minute you're feeling fine and gluing a door to your Jazz figure and the next your eyes are swelling shut and you can't breathe. Most commonly it's a respiratory attack because breathing in the fumes is what does it. Nobody has reported developing an allergy (unless they were naturally allergic) by just touching super glue. The harmful stuff is absorbed through your lungs, not your skin.

 

You might be familiar with my friend Black Arachanis who does figure head casts for the customizing community? He's now officially allergic to super glue and the one who got me looking into this. He'd spend hours a day gluing little guide-sticks on to the figure's head before making a mold and was exposed to super glue fumes the entire time. After a few years of this his body suddenly fought back and he couldn't breathe. He was looking for a substitute for super glue because he couldn't work with it anymore. That sudden allergy threatened his hobby/business.

 

Then I thought... good lord, I use that stuff every day. I can smell it, stings my eyes sometimes. I've been using it for years, on a regular basis since the first Marvel Legends figure series came out, back in 2002 I believe. I also use epoxies and Polyurethane Resins which are known to cause a sensitivity issue faster than super glue. So here I am playing Russian roulette with my health! I searched the web for what kind of precautions you should take and turned to the commercial industry. Car manufactures, the people who spray resin on boats, auto paint guys, what did they do to avoid exposure?

 

Without spending thousands of dollars for self-contained respirator units or those body suits I found that you need a simple respirator that cleans out Organic Vapors. A simple dust mask does nothing for fumes, it just removes particles. Only a mask with filters certified to remove organic vapors will protect against super glue/paint/epoxy/resin fumes. After calling some shops getting prices and checking on line I found a mask that does what you need and for a very good price.

 

3M Organic Vapor Half Mask

 

It also turns out the mask has pads that remove particles from sanding/dremelling. The link above also has the best price I could find for one, given shipping costs and it was based right here in California, shipped to my door in 1 day. The mask is extremely comfortable to wear and honestly, looks cool, like some Metal Gear spy gas mask when you put it on. I know what you're thinking tho, "I have to put that thing on every time?" It's not hard and goes on/off in 2 seconds. One strap goes around your neck and the other over the back of your head. Or you can just use the back of the head one. I could breathe easier in that than I could in a normal dust mask, which surprised the hell out of me! Makes a cool 'pssssht' noise when you exhale and I bet I could use it for part of a Helghast costume for Halloween, heh. Both the organic and particle filters are replaceable.

 

You breathe through that mask when you're working with super glue. I'm sure if you just needed a dab or two you could skip it, hold your breath or blow the fumes away, but I'm using mine every time. And especially when I use my epoxies/solvents too. I don't smell any of the chemicals I work with and no longer get headaches after working with my resins. It's the best $30 I ever spent for customizing in my opinion. And for anyone who kitbashes on a regular basis I can't stress enough how important your health is. Half the stuff we use is toxic and we're usually in a garage/basement/enclosed room doing this right? Ok, enough talk. Take this information as you will. Shop around if you want a different mask but make sure it removes Organic Vapors, that's the important thing. The link I provided was cheaper than the ones I found at the Auto Parts/Home Depot store and didn't even come with the particle filters. Tho the organic vapor filters will remove particles, they'll just clog up with those first and are more expensive to replace.

 

Want some reference to superglue/chemical sensitivity?

http://www.v2rocket.com/start/scale/fr/health.html

http://www.detectoprint.com/article.htm (read the 'Don't get stuck or worse' part near the bottom)

And you can google Super Glue Allergy or Super Glue Allergic Reaction to find more.

 

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Its not without reason that a lot of hobby products clearly specify being used in well ventilated areas only.

 

Heed those warnings, folks.

 

Years ago, I started developing a sensitivity to turpentine fumes--and I don't use hobby enamel paints anymore because of that.

 

I use cyanoacrylates, but not frequently, and I make sure I have adequate ventilation.

Jin Satome raises a point that a lot of hobbyists get a failing grade on--being " Do I HAVE TO take precautions everytime?

 

YES!

Every single time.

Treat the stuff like hazard materials, because in essence THAT IS WHAT THEY ARE.

Don't jeopardize your health.

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Ahhh, good ol' turpentine, that bugs my nose too. The mask will take care of those fumes as well Arrow. And what is truly 'good ventilation'? Just a large open room? Your overhead fan on? A window open? It's a general precuationary statement that people tend not to look to deeply into. To completly avoid superglue fumes from rising up and getting into your lungs you would have to be outside with a fan blowing directly across your workspace. Since we all can't customize in those conditions and we're usually stuck in a garage or room, that's why I suggest the mask. Why take the chance right?

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Ahhh, good ol' turpentine, that bugs my nose too. The mask will take care of those fumes as well Arrow. And what is truly 'good ventilation'? Just a large open room? Your overhead fan on? A window open? It's a general precuationary statement that people tend not to look to deeply into. To completly avoid superglue fumes from rising up and getting into your lungs you would have to be outside with a fan blowing directly across your workspace. Since we all can't customize in those conditions and we're usually stuck in a garage or room, that's why I suggest the mask. Why take the chance right?

 

The one problem with masks is that most comercially available breath filters aren't made to filter out harmful fumes. Your best best bet is ALWAYS to follow packaging directions when using superglue, which means well using in a well ventilated area (plenty of open space, open widows, and preferably, a fan blowing).

 

If you do use a mask, make sure the one you buy is specifically made for filtering chemical fumes.

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Ahhh, good ol' turpentine, that bugs my nose too. The mask will take care of those fumes as well Arrow. And what is truly 'good ventilation'? Just a large open room? Your overhead fan on? A window open? It's a general precuationary statement that people tend not to look to deeply into. To completly avoid superglue fumes from rising up and getting into your lungs you would have to be outside with a fan blowing directly across your workspace. Since we all can't customize in those conditions and we're usually stuck in a garage or room, that's why I suggest the mask. Why take the chance right?

 

That's just it, I have a window open directly in front of my desk and a small fan blowing across me about 3 feet away.

I do that even in -30C temps--and its not fun.

The mask is a solid idea, and I'm going to invest in one for myself.

 

This is a good timely topic and not enough can be said about it.

 

As an aside, I just got a copy of the 2nd edition of Shep Paine's How to Build Dioramas--having misplaced my dog-eared original 1rst edition and I wonder how a guy like that manages. Shep has been pro-modelling for almost 40 years now, iirc and doubtlessly has come across these kinds of issues.

I think gone are the days of having a small pool of turps or lineseed oil in the pallette dish while painting a figure with some oils--and NOT wearing a protective mask.

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Jin, once again you prove you are da man. You help customizers to an incredible degree, and then even care about our health enough to post great info and links like this.

 

Ok, enough shameless butt-kissing. I have my own story to relate.

 

McFarlane X-Files Victim In Body Bag figures come with a gurney and a "real cloth" autopsy sheet over it:

 

http://www.spawn.com/toys/product.aspx?product=2117

 

Well, last night I found out that if you mold the cloth around an object and then cover it with superglue, it hardens rock hard in that shape (I was making a cushion for the bottom of a T3 coffin out of the top part of the gurney and the cloth). It's just like a cast you get for a broken bone nowadays. The only problem is, the chemical reaction caused by the glue and cloth not only releases a horrible fume but it also gets super-hot as it dries! I almost burned my skin (mildly) while holding it.

 

I also managed to breathe in a considerable amount of the fumes (you can actually see wisps of smoke rising as it hardens the cloth). Now I really wish I had thought about at least wearing a mask while holding my face right over the cloth.

 

For anyone who is looking to do something like that, I reccomend the combo of those cloths and superglue, but definitely look into that mask Jin is talking about.

 

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You're all very welcome, just trying to keep any problems from cropping up in the future for us customizers.

 

Ah! There's another not-on-the-label-warning Van Flyte! Do NOT use superglue on any cotton material. It can actually catch fire! I'm going to add that to my Saftey page when I have it all written up. Usually just superglue on like shirt-material won't catch fire but you will notice it harden really fast and release some nasty fumes. A Q-tip smokes sometimes, and if you use a bunch you can actually catch a cotton ball on fire. It's not on the label but check the MSDS page for super glue here, page 3: http://plantwo.byu.edu/building/msds/super%20glue.pdf

 

"Contact will wool or cotton may result in a strong exothermic reaction that may result in a fire."

 

Oh the joys of chemistry.

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