This topic has 5 replies, 3 voices, and was last updated 1 year, 8 months ago by tjfier.

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  • #18711
     tjfier
    • Experience: 10-15 years
    • Scenic Status: Full Time Regular

    I’m putting together a presentation for USITT breaking down several commonly used products that are quite toxic if not used with correct protection. This presentation was inspired by a professor using BARGE in an extremely unsafe way at a conference (poor ventilation, not protective glove use)

    I’ve heard lots of anecdotal evidence as to why cutting foam with a hot knife is a big no-no-NO! After digging around on the internet a little bit, I didn’t find the evidence-based information I wanted to explore this topic further.

    Does anyone have any evidence-based documentation as to why cutting foam with a hot knife, or with any kind of heat source, is dangerous?

    Thanks!

    Tiff

    #18718
     Scott Gerwitz
    Admin
    • Experience: 20+ years
    • Scenic Status: Full Time Regular

    • Partner
      Partner Member

    Hello,

    You could look into books Monona Rossol has written.  I looked on her website to see if she has any safety bulletins on foam but alas no.  You can get copies of bulletins she has written via snail mail.  Info on her website: https://artscraftstheatersafety.org/bio.html

    You could also contact fellow Guild Member Bill Reynolds. He works at Yale School of Drama as a Lecturer in Theater Safety and Health. He might be able to point in you the right direction.

    william.reynolds@yale.edu

    #18719
     Scott Gerwitz
    Admin
    • Experience: 20+ years
    • Scenic Status: Full Time Regular

    • Partner
      Partner Member

    Hello,

    You could look into books Monona Rossol has written.  I looked on her website to see if she has any safety bulletins on foam but alas no.  You can get copies of bulletins she has written via snail mail.  Info on her website: https://artscraftstheatersafety.org/bio.html

    You could also contact fellow Guild Member Bill Reynolds. He works at Yale School of Drama as a Lecturer in Theater Safety and Health. He might be able to point in you the right direction.

    william.reynolds@yale.edu

    #18729
     Angelique Powers
    • Experience: 20+ years
    • Scenic Status: Full Time Regular

    • Member
      Member Member

    The topic of safety with hotwires and foam have sent me down so many internet rabbit holes in the past — this is a topic I have always wanted to cover more in-depth, and it just keeps getting pushed to my back burner (sorry for pun).   I am super excited to see what you present! — let us know what time you are scheduled!!

    Trying to find actual scientific-based research is super tricky but these are some of the best sources I found –

    1.  This was the only actual study I found, but I don’t have the right type of credentials to open it – maybe you have friends in the science dept at your school, who have a membership to CLEAPS.   So I have no idea if the verdict was good or bad.

    2.  This is info about STYRENE a componet in polystyrene foam –  from the NIH – it talks about how it is all kinds of bad for your health.

    3. This is from an EPS Industry website that talks about how EPS foam behaves when melted or in a fire – and when you think about it, that is what we are doing- but just more highly controlled with our hot knives and wires – the big quote take away was “Ignited EPS will produce a dense smoke that will result in carbon monoxide, monostyrene, hydrogen bromide, and other aromatic compounds”    which all those words lead to you back to the NIH site to see why those are bad things too.

    4. This is a Q/A section from a HotKnife company talking about safety concerns.  I still find it highly suspect that they state that cutting EPS foam with a hot knife breaks down the foam to just “Water and Carbon” and that it is safer than burning wood – BUT they do go on and add this tidbit   “The dust from cutting with saws and sanding EPS foam is more harmful than the fumes encountered while cutting foam with a hot wire tool. Always wear a good quality dust mask when saw cutting or sanding polystyrene foams.” – they are trying to sell a product though so this is all with a grain of foam, errr I mean salt.

    5- The Hotwire Company does give you a link to a pdf from a European EPS company about how EPS foam acts in a fire to help back up their claims of safety – however its topic is as a safe building material in case of fires, and not as an art material with our heads over the white smoke.

    However I did find these parts interesting:

    “When burning, expanded polystyrene behaves like other hydrocarbons such as wood, paper, etc. The products of combustion are basically carbon monoxide and styrene”  (didn’t I just learn styrene is crazy bad for you?)

    “If EPS is exposed to temperatures above 100° C, it begins to soften, to contract and finally to melt. At higher temperatures, gaseous combustible products are formed by the decomposition of the melt. (which reminds me of what a hot knife/wire  does)

    Later on this in the pdf I found this quote: “Styrene has an odor which can be detected at 25 p.p.m. to 50 p.p.m. and which becomes intolerable at between 200 p.p.m. and 400 p.p.m. This warns of the necessity of immediate evacuation of an area. Eye irritation and nausea may occur at 600 p.p.m. and some neurological impairment may occur at 800 p.p.m.  In a fire, the styrene is likely to be further decomposed to form carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and water.”    (but we don’t heat the foam to “fire” level – we heat it to melting level and its that melting level that releases the  styrene into the air and that when I smell  the gross odor, and  I DO get nauseous and I DO get headaches – but I’m an artist not a scientist, so what do I know)

    I hope this is helpful!  I can’t wait to hear about your presentation after it’s done!

     

    #18821
     tjfier
    • Experience: 10-15 years
    • Scenic Status: Full Time Regular

    Thank you!

    #18822
     tjfier
    • Experience: 10-15 years
    • Scenic Status: Full Time Regular

    I also went down the internet rabbit hole and was very frustrated by the number of people who assumed burning this stuff was no big deal. It’s really unfortunate that we have to dig deep to find more info on this. Thanks for all the links. Foam cutting is just one part of a larger topic. I know that too often undergraduate scene shops are a hotbed for unsafe hazardous material usage. This presentation was inspired by a professor at a conference using Barge Adhesive with NO PROTECTIVE ANYTHING!!!

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