Almost all epoxies used in the fiber optic industry are two-part epoxy systems consisting of a resin and a hardener or activator.  All the chemicals in these two-part epoxies can cause an allergic reaction, but the component most commonly causing an allergic reaction is the resin.  Epoxy resin is the third most frequent cause of occupational allergic dermatitis, or in other simple words, allergic skin reactions.

The likelihood of developing an adverse reaction increases with the amount and concentration of epoxy resin used, frequency of skin contact, length of time exposed, and area of contaminated skin.

To note, the two types of Contact Dermatitis are Irritant and Allergic.

  • Irritant Contact Dermatitis is an inflammatory reaction that occurs after damage to the skin. This is not an allergy and can occur in any individual exposed to an irritant.
  • Allergic Contact Dermatitis is a delayed hypersensitivity reaction occurring after sensitization and subsequent re-exposure to an allergen. Sensitization is when an individual shows a reaction to a particular material, but only after repeated contact.  This is considered an individual problem, whereas one person could handle the material with no reaction and another would show signs of irritation.

To reduce the risk of either of these types of dermatitis, let’s begin with a common phrase: SAFETY FIRST.  It is important to prepare and protect yourself from coming in contact with the epoxy itself and its fumes, as well as understand the specific material you are working with and receive training for your specific application process. Working in a well-ventilated area or under a ventilation hood is a must, especially if you are curing a high number of connectors at a time in a large capacity oven.

By reading the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) prior to handling, which is available for each hazardous product supplied, you can review general health and safety advice.  You can familiarize yourself with hazard statements, precautionary statements, first-aid measures, material composition and recommended handling and personal protective measures and equipment.

more handling =

more exposure =

increased chances of allergic reaction

less handling =

less exposure =

decreased chances of allergic reaction

Since Allergic Contact Dermatitis is considered an individual problem, it is also recommended to research the material you will be using and see if there is an alternative that is more allergen friendly and discover the type of gloves that are best for you.  Latex gloves are readily available and affordable, but if you are hypersensitive to latex, perhaps nitrile gloves are the choice for you.

As always, MINIMIZE HANDLING where applicable.  Proper packaging for your application and application process comes into play here.  If you choose/need to work with bulk material, such as 8 oz. kits, there will be significantly more handling.  It is likely you will need to work under a ventilation hood to avoid the fumes from this bulk material.  The least amount of handling you will encounter is with Premixed and Frozen syringes.  While there are other factors to consider with this packaging type, contact with the epoxy is indeed significantly less.

To reduce the risk of either of these types of dermatitis, let’s end with simple statements about handling:

More handling = more exposure = increased chances of allergic reaction

Less handling = less exposure = decreased chances of allergic reaction

A good friend told me once that “More is more and less is less!”  Now, was she referring to epoxy handling and allergic reactions?  No, but it makes much sense here as it did when she first uttered it.



Helpful Epoxy Tips (and a Few Tricks)
For this article, I decided to share a few answers to some of the questions I hear most often, along with favorite epoxy tips and tricks.
Crystallization in Epoxies: How to Identify and Reverse it
This technical paper dispels the perception that the material properties of crystallized epoxy are compromised. In fact, crystallization indicates the purity of product.
Light Brigade - Fiber Optic Safety (DVD)
This DVD serves a primer on the safety elements and concerns of anyone working with fiber optic systems, components, fibers, or installation.
Ångströmbond AB9123 Heat Cure Epoxy (2.5g)

This low viscosity, rapid curing two-part epoxy adhesive is designed for bonding and potting optical connectors, fibers, lenses, prisms and other optical components.

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Kelly Barker

About Kelly Barker

Kelly Barker, Business Development, Epoxies, Technical Sales Kelly started her career in customer service, marketing and sales. Since then, she has been promoted to management positions in these departments, project management director, and new business development with a specialty in product line marketing strategy. Kelly joined Fiber Optic Center, Inc. from PennWell Corporation where she spent more than five years in business development within various industries including Fiber Optics, Cabling, Connector, LED, Military and Aerospace. She has worked extensively with adhesive manufacturers on their product lines and applications within these markets. Kelly graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell in 1997 with a BS degree in Marketing and Management and a minor in Legal Studies. She resides in Nashua, NH with her husband and two girls, Maizie and Audrey. She enjoys being involved in community activities, such as park and recreation sports with her girls, and enjoys camping and reading. Follow @EpoxyExprtsFOC