Hi again guys , I have just noticed the warning on my accelerator , that calif. has found it to cause cancer and birth defects ! I have been using it daily for years , is there a safe type ? Mine is Z*P brand .

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Hi. I've just recovered from my second bout of lymphoma. Not a great deal of fun!  - it cost me a year out of work and I've only just got my hair back - bonus is it's come back thick and curly!

I've often wondered about CA accelerator. If I catch a whiff of it it seems to close down my breathing for a short while so I try now to avoid it. Interestingly, I ran out of accelerator the other day whilst doing some inly, and tried out something I'd heard of. I dabbed over the area with a cotton bud, moistened with acetone and once the acetone had evaporated off the CA was set hard. I want to try using it in a small perfume spray (or similar) to see if it is as effective. If so, then I have a considerably cheaper method of accelerating.

In general, I think that we use a lot of stuff in the workshop that is potentially carcinogenic. I used to take risks that were on reflection hair-raising. Now, with age ( and illness) I always take care to wear a high quality respirator when spraying, use good extraction and store drying items separate from my workshop. Having recently looked more closely into the toxicity of xykene and toluene, both main constituents of nitro thinners, I find that they are correlationally linked to lymphoma and myeloma. Both my bouts of lymphoma occurred after lengthy periods of spraying with ( I perceive now) less than adequate protection. I think the message is clear - so much stuff in the workshop is toxic and potentially carcinogenic, so work out your safety routines and buy the best respirators available !

I want to add to this important discussion as a retired chemist who has gotten very fine info from this group as I've tried to develop some ability in acoustic guitar repair, and has learned stuff every time I log in here. I want to throw out some generalities that will minimize your actual exposure (ingestion) of those carcinogens and other hazardous volatiles.

Working safely with volatile organics begins with secure, vapor-tight storage containers. Labs will also segregate those containers in solvent cabinets that are vented to the outside or maybe garage. That is ideal storage. You can judge how well you are storing your volatiles by the odor level when you walk into your shop in the morning when your sense of smell isn't "fatigued". 

As you work air movement is your friend to minimize your ingestion of airborne chemicals. This dilutes them in the room's air. A low speed fan toward your work area where you use the chemicals will work, or a ceiling fan directing air up. However depending on how long you use the volatiles and their concentrations in the product you're using, your room's air can reach unsafe concentrations of those chemicals. Consider ventilating your shop periodically to get rid of most of the volatiles that have built up.  

Having a work area with one-way movement of air away from you and venting it to the outside is ideal. A friend of mine who builds mandolins has an improvised fume hood in his basement vented to the outside. 

A respirator with a "universal" absorbent of activated carbon or charcoal is also a valuable too for volatile organic chemicals, but if you have facial hair it's effectiveness is questionable. Use of the respirator should not be the only precaution you take in working w/these chemicals.

Practically speaking, if a product has a repulsive or unpleasant odor, you should minimize your ingestion of that chemical. Your sense of smell is telling you something important. However, just because some product smells good or at least isn't repulsive doesn't mean it's good for you either. But manage your risk by working to avoid breathing and smelling chemicals that don't smell "good." If you're getting a headache working with a particular product, take extra precautions. Protecting yourself working on a small area can be as simple as blowing lightly on the repair site with your breath, directing the volatiles away from your face.

You should use nitirile gloves for the most effective protection from absorbing these chemicals thru the skin too. I prefer powder free gloves when occasionally necessary. You can use them to protect yourself from lawn and gardening chemicals, cleaning chemicals, etc. Change gloves if they get a hole in them!

The precautions described minimize the chance for fires and explosions as well ... a bonus effect. 

Some basic awareness can go a long way toward preventing health problems. Be safe as well as effective in your work!

My comments on State of California warnings were not meant to be in any way dismissive of the seriousness of  cancer.

I just think you should research for yourself  rather than taking California's word

Here's another classic

"Electrical Cords
California requires the following notice:

WARNING: The wires of any product with a power cord may contain chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm. Wash hands after handling."

Yes, That exactly the point, Jeff. Were inundated with meaningless warnings. It might possibly be easier to list the thing that haven't been found to contain agents that have been found to cause "cancer or birth defects or other reproductive harm" in the state of California than to list all of the warnings we receive on the topic. 

I really do try to work safe. I use masks and gloves and even an apron on occasion. I know I need to be careful with many of the chemicals I come across and I take precautions but I don't think I could function at all if I took seriously all of the warning I see. I certainly couldn't pump gas for my car or even breath while someone else did it for me. 

I didn't know that C.A. has a potential to introduce cancer causing agents into my body BUT I really hate the smell and usually don't even spray it unless I have to. When I use it, I don't stand around and breath it in and it's always in a area that's well ventilated. I do the same with almost everything else I use. The one exception is that I sometimes do French Polish in my house as I watch something on the tube and although I don't wear a mask, I do wear gloves when I do that.

Most of the warnings ( like the one Jeff posted) are an attempt to avoid litigation rather than a warning of valid health risk. I can't say that handling a power cord won't cause cancer but I would really like to know what the odds are for that the happen. I think it more likely that driving down one of  our freeways for half an hour a day is a much greater risk of causing cancer than handling a power cord and forgetting to wash my hands. So far, California hasn't required me to put warning labels on our bumpers but maybe I should in the interest of avoiding a law suite.  A preemptive bumper sticker anyone? 

Why try to work "safe".  Why not avoid chemicals altogether?  Torres did not have them.  Martin didn't.

What the hell is going on here?  Are we in THAT much in a hurry?  All of you are "Whistling in the dark".  Feel better whistling?  You'd feel better safe I'll bet!

Fabric softener is full of chemicals too :).

Hi Andrew,

If I were to use it I would leave the shop while it was giving off fumes and ventilate thoroughly.  But, touche'!  You got me there.



Many of us on here are working professionals. All of us strive to do quality work according to established trade standards. Chemicals are industry standard 'tools'. THAT'S what's going on here.

Are we in a hurry? Often, yes. We have deadlines and customer promises to keep. We also bill by the hour + material costs, so getting it done quickly (whenever possible) using products whose functions perform effectively in the particular task, is of major concern to us and is VITAL to our businesses and the longevity thereof.

While we all have a reverent eye in what came before, we'd be poor repairmen/conservationists/preservationists/restoration experts not to take advantage of the latest/appropriate/cost effective tools and products to available to us.

Hi Paul,

I appreciate the urgency of business.  I am a luthier that only produces a dozen or so guitars a year.  My situation is not as dire as yours.  But for thirty years I owned an architectural and building firm that had its deadlines.  I understand the need to pay bills and survive.

All I am saying is that there are consequences to our actions.  You evolved into the situation where you must use toxic chemicals.  Use them wisely and with protection.  I abhor the attitude I find here that, "everything supposedly causes cancer but it isn't always true", is a license to go around sniffing anything you please just to prove that, "They are wrong".  It's our lives that are at stake.  And it's a poor example for young luthiers to follow.  Some day people will look back on us and scratch their heads and say, "What the bleep were they thinking?!"

I think there's a couple of points you are missing here, Phil.  

 For the most part, the people you may see as taking "license to go around sniffing anything you please just to prove that 'They are wrong'" are actually protesting the flood of uninformative warning labels that seem to pop up like mushrooms. The original post that Len placed, indicated that he just noticed the label. One of the factors in my life is that warning label are so ubiquitous and uninformative that they have become a type of "crying wolf" to me. I read them WHEN I notice but there are so many of them with so little actual information that I often just don't notice them anymore. That doesn't mean that I'm cavalier about the chemicals I use. I'm not a idiot so I don't automatically assume that no warning label means that it's completely safe in every way and I don't think that anyone else here is that way either. 

 I think that most, if not all, of the people here understand the dangers of chemical exposure AND take precautions. The perception you are displaying missed those points. Besides, Torres didn't use CA because he didn't have it. It probably wouldn't be accurate to portray him as avoiding using dangerous chemicals when they were not available at the time. I could be wrong but I seriously doubt that he used a mask when he worked with exotic wood, which we know today can be fairly toxic to inhale. Torres worked the way he did because it was how it was done then. Obviously we need to be more aware of the modern chemicals we use but there isn't any need to avoid them completely because a warning label is on the container and portraying us as "sniffing" in rebellion is inaccurate and unfair.  

You are quite right.  Torres might have used anything he could get his hands on.  My point was that he made fine guitars with only the bare essentials.

About wood allergies.  That is what drove me to get so militant!  From wood I recently developed a nasty case of contact dermatitis, about 7 months age.  Call me a chicken, but that day I stopped building.  It was like my shop was frozen in time.  It scared me that bad.  That is what it takes!  Someone replied that, "their throat closed up when they used the accelerator".  Well, as an asthmatic, when my throat closes up I could die right there in the shop so I head for the Emergency Room.

Believe me, if anyone had my experiences they would do as I have done.  The thing is, if you don't get that threatened, you ignore it.  It's probably human nature.  Put your hand IN the fire and you will reconsider your actions.  But put your hand NEAR the fire, well, maybe next time you will say, "I am a luthier and have production schedules to meet.  It's OK".

Hi Phil.

Here a few more points I think you're missing:

1. We are not young luthiers (I'm 62) Our average age on this forum is around 55 (just a guess).

2. We use chemical agents more in repair/restoration than building. When used, they are used sparingly.

3. We take more than appropriate cautionary measures (as set forth by manufacturers/local, state & federal reg's.) to ensure our health is minimally affected. We've had several discussions on 'work arounds' for members with unpleasant reactions to certain substances (wood, glues, polishes, bone, certain metals, etc) or certain health issues (tendonitis, C.T., arthritis)

4. In doing so, we understand there's an assumed risk (like getting into a car to go anywhere).

5. Our exposure to solvents and adhesives are minimal. Usually less than 20 seconds a few times a day. Some days...never.

I, personally, no longer offer complete refinishing as a service due to a PERSONAL unpleasant reaction to nitro lac, even while using industrial respirators and updraft ventilation.

There are MAJOR differences between the materials we use and environmental issues encountered in repair as opposed to building. Ex: we deal on a daily basis with mold, mildew, dried mystery foodstuffs, animal biological byproducts, etc.

Even though some of us, myself included, are not builders and have no 'passion' to build, we still take great personal pride in the quality of our work and the amount of skills we've amassed over decades of study, both academic and practical.

The instant subject and other 'environmental/health related' discussions are common and discussed in detail on this forum. Search the archives for "Cellusolve" as an example.

When builders (some who never did repairs prior to building) ask for repair techniques (it happens occasionally) to save a piece of their work damaged during construction, we work as a team to get the builder the info he needs.

When we do find 'hack' techniques being offered, new products that are snake oil and other 'debatable' suggestions, we take them seriously and are sometime brutally honest in our responses.

Please go easy on us about getting work out the door. We're just scrapping out a living.

When someone orders a guitar from you, YOU establish the expected delivery date. When we agree to take in a repair, a guitar may have to go to the top of the list because a working professional needs it by a certain 'unreasonable' date (read: later today or tomorrow).  That puts us in a tight spot as now all the other work's schedules must be modified (usually work longer hours) to accommodated and meet deadlines. 

And again, we strive to work within the realm of established MODERN and "appropriate to the age of the instrument" industry standards. Please respect that desire.


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