Adhesive fumes and risks

Adhesive fumes aren’t much fun when you’re exposed to strong concentrations of them. They can cause headaches, nausea, and various types of irritation. The industrial strength adhesives have safety warnings all over them, with good reason.

The different types of Adhesives have their own particular issues. While mild exposure isn’t considered harmful, the irritants can cause respiratory problems and inflammations, and in some cases asthma attacks. In some cases allergic reactions may also be triggered, although these are rare.

The nature of the adhesives, whether they’re solid or liquid, is another range of issues. Evaporation of liquid glues like epoxies makes the glues breathable as fine droplets, causing these irritations. The best way to avoid these effects is to ensure good ventilation, and if you’re working with the glues, use a face mask or industrial mask.

Solid adhesives are another issue. Sanding or working cured adhesives produces fine particles. These particles may persist in the environment for a while, and reactions related to them are similar to the liquid forms. Thorough vacuum cleaning and good ventilation will remove these problems.

Adhesives and the workplace environment

In the workplace, adhesive fumes are likely to be a result of local conditions. In some environments, sunlight hitting adhesives may produce a chemical action, emitting fumes. In others, heat can trigger a response from the adhesives. In some cases chemicals can act like solvents and may interact with adhesives. The reactions to these issues vary, but there are some obvious telltales:

•Smells- The “plastic” smell is typical of polymer adhesives subjected to heat.

•Nausea- Usually associated with other conditions, but a possible symptom of exposure to fumes.

•Irritations- Various respiratory responses, and in some cases eye irritations.

These reactions may be a response to recent work using adhesives in an enclosed environment. Adequate ventilation will usually minimize or completely remove any problems, but it’s possible that the adhesives haven’t fully cured, and the work should be inspected on principle.

New homes or building work and adhesives issues

Adhesives are commonly used in the building industry for an almost endless range of tasks, and new homes, naturally, contain a lot of these materials in various forms. Any fumes issues are almost invariably the result of lack of curing by the adhesives.

Again, ventilation is the primary means of dealing with the issue, which will disappear when the adhesives have cured. However, because living spaces may be enclosed, it’s advisable to ensure that the area is ventilated as well as possible, to speed up the curing process.


•Do not expose new adhesives to added heat. That can make the fumes worse, and prevent or delay the adhesives from curing properly.

•Do not use any chemicals like cleaning agents or disinfectants. These can affect the chemistry of adhesives before they’re fully cured.

•Remember that many adhesives are flammable. Areas where there are any sort of exposed heating element or flame should be treated with particular care. Fumes from burning adhesives are extremely irritating and potentially dangerous. Ensure that the heat sources are turned off before using adhesives.