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Cyanoacrylate Glue Sensitivity

An Article on Cyanoacrylate Glue Sensitivity

By Steve Kerry

Sensitivity is something that varies from one person to the next. Think of your body as a bucket, and each time you use a certain chemical you add a drop to that bucket. When it is full, your body can't tolerate that chemical any longer and it becomes hazardous to your health. Some people have tolerance the size of a bathtub, other the size of a teaspoon. There is no way of measuring your remaining tolerance level, and there seems to be no way of emptying the bucket.

I'd been using cyano for a good 15 years, often leaning over the joint and getting a cloud of the fumes in my face when it kicked. The worse I ever got was sore eyes and a headache after an 8 hour building session.

Last year I suddenly got short of breath. Couldn't figure it out, I was wheezing and gasping pretty bad. If I tried to lay down, I couldn't breathe at all - I ended up sleeping in a chair that night. Took about three days to clear up. I'd spent the whole day in the workshop, so I figured it had to be caused by something in there. I hadn't used epoxy, so that wasn't the problem. Cyano was the next place to look, so I spent another day carving and sanding and making a lot of dust. I only used wood glue, and I had no problems. Next session in the workshop I used cyano, and that night I could hardly breathe again. A few more tests (all these days in the workshop were for research, honest!) showed that a single drop of cyano would bring on a bad asthma attack several hours later. Obviously I binned the stuff, and I haven't had a problem since.

Other people have reported dizziness and headaches, again all cured by getting rid of the cyano.

This does vary with the brand, I can still use those tiny little tubes of superglue they sell at corner stores. I use them carefully and with good ventilation, and I haven't had any problems. But I use them only rarely, one little tube will last a year or more. There are also user-friendly cyano brands that will not attack foam, they are said to be better in this regard. I haven't tried them.

I have taken this as a warning, I figure I am pretty close to my tolerance level for cyano and I don't want to get any closer. Epoxy sensitation is acknowledged as a hazard, I don't see that cyano is any different. I have one of those little tubes in my field kit - the flying site is pretty well ventilated, after all :-) - but if I have any choice, I use wood glue nowadays.

If you're having a problem similar to what I just described, then take them out of the workshop and see if the problem goes away. If it does, bring the various glues back one at a time and see what happens. When the symptoms return, you've probably found the responsible glue.