Epoxy Fume Control in Clean Rooms

In keeping with this month’s blog theme of Fume Control in Clean Rooms, we would like to discuss epoxy fume containment in clean rooms.

Many applications require epoxy use in clean rooms, including electrical applications (e.g. coating), medical devices, testing equipment, and more.

Aside from possibly compromising the integrity of the clean room with epoxy vapors, there are ill health effects associated with the inhalation of epoxy fumes. Borrowed from one of our previous blog entries about the Hazards of Epoxy Fumes, here are some possible health effects:

Respiratory Harm

When epoxy fumes are inhaled, they can affect the nose, throat, and lungs. Most symptoms from the inhalation of epoxy involve inflammation and therefore irritation of the nose, throat, and lungs. Repetitive and high amounts of exposure to these fumes can result in sensitization and asthma.

When dust from partially cured epoxy is inhaled, the particles become trapped in the mucus lining of the respiratory system and can cause serious health problems. According to West System, a leading epoxy manufacturer, this dust should never be inhaled. [2]

Sensitization and Asthma

Sensitization, in this case, is the state of being allergic to epoxy. Sensitization can occur at any point, regardless of how many times or for how long you’ve been exposed to epoxy. Your chances of being sensitized will increase if you’re exposed to a greater amount of fumes in an unventilated area, but even one episode of exposure can lead to an allergic reaction. This is why preventative safety is so important in regard to epoxy. Once sensitized, even small amounts of the substance can trigger allergic reactions and it will be increasingly difficult to work with the material. There is also no definite cure for sensitization, only methods to relieve the symptoms. [2]

According to MayoClinic.com, sensitization from irritant exposure in the workplace can be classified as Occupational Asthma, which is defined as “asthma that’s caused or worsened by breathing in a workplace irritant, such as chemical fumes, gases or dust. Like other types of asthma, occupational asthma can cause symptoms, such as chest tightness, wheezing and shortness of breath.” [3] Also according to MayoClinic.com, two of the “High Risk Occupations” for developing occupational asthma are Adhesive Handlers and Users of Plastics and Epoxy Resins, among many others. [3]

For further information on Occupational Asthma: Read our blog entry on Occupational Asthma or Visit http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/occupationalasthma/index.html or http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/occupational-asthma/DS00591

Source-Capture Fume Extractors & Filtration Media

The filter media utilized when extracting chemical fumes from epoxy typically consists of activated carbon. Sentry Air Systems also utilizes a post-filter which is a high-quality HEPA filter that traps particles being released from the carbon filter. Granule carbon filtration media will have a very small amount of carbon dust that is generated during the filtration process. In non-sterile environments this is not an issue since the micron size is so small and is often not visible to the naked eye. However, inside a clean room where the particle detectors are continuously monitoring the air quality, this can hurt the integrity of the clean room and potentially set-off the monitors.

Some researchers suggest using block carbon filtration media, which is said to have less or no dusting. Recently we tested block carbon filtration and found that it was generating more particles than our standard granule filtration media. This experiment was conducted using a laser particle scanner at the outlet of both our system and a leading competitor who solely uses block carbon. The Sentry Air System combined with activated carbon filtration and a HEPA filter recorded 0 particles at 0.3 microns and larger, while the competitor’s unit was recording several hundred particles at the same micron size. Similar to the fume extraction options that we discussed in our last blog entry about solder fume extraction in clean rooms; the same kind of equipment can be used for the control of epoxy fume and vapors.

Ductless Fume Hoods

Ductless Fume Hoods provide a negative-pressure benchtop enclosure in which operators can perform their application. The powerful fan located at the top of unit quickly pulls airborne fumes into the patented filtration system. Air is filtered as it passes through the filtration system, which is typically comprised of a high-quality HEPA Filter or Activated Carbon Filter, and is then recirculated back into the immediate area, so there is no need for external venting or make-up air. Sentry Air offers several different sizes including 12“, 18“, 24“, 30“, 40“, 50“, 60“, 70” wide and custom options.

Pictured above is a 40″ Wide Ductless Fume Hood

Of all source-capture options, this configuration is typically the most effective because of the enclosed containment it offers; however, there are other options that can work just as efficiently:

Portable and Wall-Mounted Options

Mobile source-capture fume extractors are also a popular choice for epoxy fume removal. These units sit on heavy-duty casters and reach the work area via self-supportive flexible arm. These flex arms effectively capture fumes and deliver them into the filtration system. Like Ductless Fume Hoods, these systems also use HEPA or Carbon filtration and a recirculating air pattern. Sentry Air’s Portable Floor Sentry is a good example of this:

Sentry Air’s Model 300 Portable Floor Sentry is pictured above.
Wall-mounted fume extractors, similar in construction to the above mobile unit, are great options for those that have limited space and would rather have their filtration system installed on the wall and hovering over their work area. The Sky Sentry is a good example of this configuration:
Sentry Air’s Model 200 Sky Sentry is pictured above.

For more information on fume extraction options that can be utilized with clean rooms, please call a Sentry Air Systems Applications Specialist at 1.800.799.4609, email us at sales@sentryair.com, or fill out this form to receive more information.