Using CyanoAcrylate (Super Glue) in your Harmonica
Written by G. © November 2003
I was warned that off the shelf super glue contains "cyanide",
is toxic to the body and papers had been written on the subject and published
in dental journals around 2000. Up to this point I have used different super
glues for my personal instruments and experimentation only, not for my customers.
But it was concerning for me to hear this so I went about finding journal papers
on super glues or ethyl cyanoacrylate.
There is a lot of misinformation on the internet about its dangers.
However none of these claims are properly substantiated.
I found a Dental Journal article that reported on testing the toxicity of a range of ethyl cyanoacrylate products on human tissue immersed in liquid - the reason for the test being because of the use of common CAs by denture wearers when they broke rather than taking them back to the dentist for repair or replacement.
Some points of note:
- Sniffing super glue from the bottle, breathing in fumes while its setting or
when heated after being set is toxic and to be avoided.
- Ethyl cyanoacrylate is not Potassium Cyanide based.
Rather Cyanide is a chemical form rather than a chemical in itself.
So yes, Super Glue's base is in
cyanide form, so its not nearly as worrying as the idea of putting potassium
cynide in your harmonica. That said when immersed in regularly refreshed
water it breaks down into two components including formaldehyde. However
the break down under the extreme conditions of continual refreshed immersion
and 24/7 exposure, this only affected the cells surrounding the site, the
remaining culture was fine... it wasn't carried or spreading.
- Secondly the amount of CA, the direct exposure of CA to the body and
immersion in liquid is an extreme case compared to holding down a valve.
This was to test the affect of placing the cured glue against the gums which
are worn in the mouth everyday and used to eat with.
- Compared to the above tests, with gluing teflon to brass only a tiny dot
of the stuff is used which is mostly sealed between that very same brass and
teflon, the only exposed CA to speak of is through the holes pierced to
maintain an anchor.
- The amount of liquid immersion by comparison is infrequent, erratic and
low bearing in mind that its moisture blown in from the mouth, and under
poor circumstances condensation. Assuming this moisture eventually starts
to cause break down in the exposed glue surface the chemical's only means of
getting into the body are by being carried in the air borne on liquid be it
saliva or condensation. Half the time the liquid will be blown away, and
half the time drawn in, and only a portion of that liquid will actually make
it into the body with each draw. By this point the amounts are so tiny
that when we get down to working out just how much will make contact with
our tissue we should consider just what other things we are breathing in at
the same time, like second hand smoke at the pub and car fumes for instance.
- Even if one were to practise with that same instrument 6 hours a day, 7
days a week the amount of exposed glue, the amount of moisture its exposed
to and the actual amount of resulting contact with our flesh would be
infantesimal both in quantity and in exposure time as to really start
questioning the toxicity of any glue that we discuss here.
- Another mitigating factor is that a happy harmonica is a warm harmonica.
One of teflon's downsides is that when it gets saturated with saliva it pops
worse than regular valves. So I think its safe to assume that a heavy duty
player putting in long hours with this hypothetical instrument will keep the
harmonica's temperature above breath tempurature for most of the duration of
play... that means there will be less condensation and therefore less
immersion in liquid.
Every single thing in the world is poisonous to us ... with enough quantity, enough exposure, over enough time. Just trying to put it in perspective.
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