Choose Good Glues
What is your recommendation for a safe glue? My husband is a fix-it person, and I do a lot of crafts that use glues. Thanks very much. –Ronnie, GA
I’m glad you asked because there are a wide range of glues available, with a wide safety spectrum for health. Basically there are three categories of glues: Simple white glues, instant-bond glues, and glues used for jobs such as carpet installation that can contain volatile organic solvents (VOCs) including some that are highly toxic, such as toluene.
Simple non-toxic white glues are very basic and include Elmer’s Glue, which is considered to have no harmful effects unless under prolonged content. Both Elmer’s Glue All and Glue stick are certified by the Arts & Creative Materials Institute Inc. to be non-toxic.
Instant-bond glues contain cyanoacrylate, which rapidly polymerizes upon contact with water and air. Cyanoacrylate is a fume used famously used to get high, however instant-bond glues are considered of medium concern because the vapors are highly irritating to the eyes, mucous membranes and respiratory system. The National Toxicology Program and the United Kingdom Health and Safety Executive have concluded that ethyl cyanoacrylate is safe.
If you or your husband use instant-bond glues I’d make sure to use adequate ventilation and avoid this type of glue if either of you have asthma. Reportedly Titebond makes a line of environmentally preferable construction related glues (for tiles, drywall, etc.) that are solvent-free and lower in VOCs than some of their counterparts on the market.
Glues of the highest concern contain toluene, benzene, and/or formaldehyde. All of these chemicals should be avoided. Toluene is very toxic to the nervous system and has caused liver damage and more. Benzene can be found in some carpet glues, epoxies, and unleaded gasoline, and is known to cause leukemia and lymphoma. Formaldehyde is a probable carcinogen that is a known sensitizer with between 10 and 30 percent of the population sensitive to it and according to the EPA, 10 to 20 percent of the U.S. population is susceptible the chemicals effects.
The glues of the highest level of concern are usually used for installing carpet and other heavy-duty uses, and can cause widespread illness. If you can’t find an alternative to using glues for these types of projects (such as tacking down carpets, for example), be assured that if you look for them, low VOC and safer heavy-duty glues are available and I urge you to search for them. One example is a carpet laying glue called Safecoat 3 in 1 Adhesive from AFM.
Enjoy your creativity in a healthy way using safer glues!