CA glue can irritate your eyes, nose, mouth and lungs, because the fumes are a vaporized form of the CA itself and they react instantly with the moisture in your body just like they do with moisture on a surface or from a CA accelerant. About 1 in 20 people will also eventually become sensitized to CA fumes after repeated exposure and develop flu-like symptoms hours or days later. And finally, for some people, the fumes will trigger their asthma.
But lots of woodworkers work fairly freely with CA and just rely on their shop ventilation. You will need to evaluate yourself, your room setup, and your personal choices and risks to decide how much protection you want to follow and how much risk you’re comfortable with.
All manufacturers will provide the SDS (Safety Data Sheet — here’s an example from BSI) so you can read through and decide.
You can also read through the SDS for materials you already use to help estimate risk based on how materials you use today are described (e.g., The SDS for a brand of simple 99% alcohol, or the SDS for Renaissance Wax or for a brand of denatured alcohol.)
None of the information here is certified or warrantied in any way. I am a hobbiest and sharing the best information I’ve learned, but I may be 100% wrong on everything and your safety is always your responsibility and you should verify and confirm information for yourself. Where possible I have included links to serve as a starting point for research for you.
Work in a well-ventilated area (at a minimum a fan blowing fumes away from you) and if you’re using a mask, you’ll want a P100 respirator with organic vapor cartridges, not just a little N95 disposable mask.
Here is an example off Amazon, but this is not an endorsement or recommendation from me, it’s just the result of a quick keyword search and taking the first result: GVS SPR473 Elipse OV/AG-P100 Dust and Organic/Acid Gas Vapour Half Mask Respirator
Whatever mask you choose, know that they’re only as good as the fit and the seal. If air is getting in around the edges, that’s unfiltered air.,
A friend who is a woodworker says he often used an aquarium charcoal filter fastened to the back back of a fan sucking air away from his work area, but I don’t have any other information on how useful or effective that is.
Odorless CA and Fumes
Odorless CA smells less, and the companies advertise it as being less irritating than non-odorless CA.
However, if you read the SDS (Safety Data Sheet) for Supergold, it still notes “Exposure to vapors above the established exposure limit may result in respiratory irritation, which may lead to difficulty in breathing and tightness in the chest.” The established exposure limit is 0.2ppm averaged over 8 hours for all CA brands that I’ve been able to find, and they still recommend a NIOSH-approved respirator with a organic vapor cartridge (e.g. something like this.)
What this means in layman’s terms is: odorless CA is highly likely to be easier on your lungs. But it’s possible it may irritate your lungs anyways, so if you are concerned, you may want to follow the safety precautions for normal CA as well.
Personally I’ve chosen to use odorless CA glue (though it’s more challenging with bushings) with a respirator and fan, but I know many people feel they’re fine just with good ventilation and normal CA glue.
CA Accelerator and Fumes
I found it very challenging to find any safety information on CA accelerators online, so had to go to the manufacturers directly and read the data sheets.
(Updating this section now)
Follow the same safety precautions you do with CA glue and be aware that, like non-odorless CA glue, you may develop an allergy with repeated exposure if you aren’t careful.
All my “Before you start” with CA glue articles: