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I handled electrical tape and now my throat really hurts. WTF?
February 22, 2013 8:26 PM   Subscribe

I was taping an ethernet cord over my doorframe with vinyl electrical tape. I can't find the label, but I remember it had a warning saying that the tape contains chemicals that the state of California recognizes to cause cancer. After maybe ten minutes of futzing with it (and breathing), I have a minor headache, my throat hurts a lot, and breathing feels weird and cold. Page 2 of this document warns about fumes from molten electrical tape, but I didn't heat it. Was the warning label accurate? I can't find any scientific info online. Should I take this stuff down from my walls, or will it be OK now that I'm no longer actively handling it?
posted by randomname25 to Home & Garden (20 answers total)
 
I'm guessing the symptoms are unrelated to the electrical tape. Everything useful gets a Prop 65 warning. I've handled gobs of electrical tape, and never gotten headaches or respiratory issues from it.

I'd suggest that electrical tape isn't a very good tape to be using to run ethernet cord over doorframes, it really only sticks well to itself, but you're fine: It wasn't the tape.
posted by straw at 8:31 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


but I remember it had a warning saying that the tape contains chemicals that the state of California recognizes to cause cancer

Pretty much every thing sold or place that sells things in California has that label. It doesn't mean a lot.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 8:31 PM on February 22, 2013 [9 favorites]


More than likely, you kicked up a lot of dust/dirt from the door frame and are reacting to it. Happens to me when I clean something that hasn't been cleaned in a long time or dig out boxes from the back of the closet - same symptoms.
posted by getmetoSF at 8:38 PM on February 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


The headache and the tape are completely unrelated. The warning you read may be related; ask a friend if you tend to obsess and/or have anxiety issues. Seriously, you may well have worked yourself into a headache.

Or it could all be a complete coincidence.

But the tape absolutely, positively had nothing whatsoever to do with your headache.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:45 PM on February 22, 2013


IANAD. This is coincidence/confirmation bias coupled with hyperawareness. You're fine. I see in your past questions that you are very concerned about mold, and I don't doubt that increased stress/awareness around respiratory symptoms is driving most or all of your perception here. Go distract yourself with something entertaining for a while and I bet you'll feel fine.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:46 PM on February 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Since you didn't do something like burn or digest the tape, I am pretty positive that you are fine. You may have had a allergic to the tape or the dust you kicked up while futzing with the cord, but it's gonna be fine keeping it up on your walls.
posted by littlesq at 8:52 PM on February 22, 2013


My guess is that you might be allergic to the tape. I happen to be allergic to one particular cleaning product, and it makes me sneeze whenever it's sprayed. Other than that, the product cause me no issues (if it's been used to clean something previously, I have no adverse reaction).

Give it a day or two, and if you have no further reaction, then you're probably cool.
posted by emumimic at 8:53 PM on February 22, 2013


Here in California everything causes cancer. That warning label is the most useless public service announcement I have ever seen. That warning means nothing.
posted by saradarlin at 8:54 PM on February 22, 2013


There's nothing wrong with electrical tape. Either you inhaled some dust or you had psychosomatic symptoms. You're fine.
posted by Justinian at 8:55 PM on February 22, 2013


I have strong tendencies toward both anxiety and medically confirmed allergies, so I can't be sure which is to blame here. Either way, it's great to hear that I'm not about to drop dead. Thanks, hive mind!
posted by randomname25 at 8:59 PM on February 22, 2013


My guess: you kicked up dust from the top of the doorframe
posted by Good Brain at 9:00 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


over my doorframe

You were holding your arms up over your head, and looking up, and maybe standing on your toes for at least a bit. The headache is from the weird arm and neck angles and the weird breathing is anxiety. IANAD or Chemist.

(I feel similarly if I have to hold my binoculars - which weigh a pound or so - while looking straight up, and also when I have to change lightbulbs/smoke detector batteries in our high-ceilinged flat and the fiddling takes more than a couple of minutes.)
posted by rtha at 9:12 PM on February 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


This sounds an awful lot like "Medical Students' Disease".
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:29 PM on February 22, 2013


The warning label is, in fact, technically accurate: vinyl chloride, the foundation of what we know as just plain vinyl and a material likely to be in your tape, is technically on the list of materials known to the State of California to cause cancer.

Also on the list of things known to the State of California to cause cancer: alcoholic beverages, diesel engine exhaust, lead, leather dust, marijuana and tobacco smoke, nickel, oral contraceptives, Chinese-style salted fish, mineral and used engine oils, unleaded gasoline and wood dust. It is an understatement to say that you may have come into contact with some of these things - and likely have come out of encounters without any health difficulties.

Because of how common small quantities of items on the list are in day to day life, those living in California see that warning a whole lot, even when there is little to no apparent risk: when entering a parking garage, or going to a bar, or at Starbucks, on their GPS, on their Nissan Leaf electric car, or on simple woodworking tools. There are lots more examples. Lots and lots. That warning is not an indication that a material is especially toxic.

Your vinyl tape is unlikely to have made you sick. I'm with Good Brain that you probably kicked up some dust putting up the cable.
posted by eschatfische at 9:56 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, balsamic vinegar.

Just generally, I'm pretty sure cancer doesn't manifest as physical discomfort within 48 hours of exposure. IANAD.
posted by charlemangy at 12:22 AM on February 23, 2013


Haha, yeah, I wasn't actually stupid enough to think the physical discomfort was a manifestation of cancer—I suppose I should have phrased it as a more general question about whether the fumes were in any way hazardous. In any case, I feel silly, but silly's a lot better than sick.
posted by randomname25 at 1:06 AM on February 23, 2013


The fumes are harmless to you. I used to use electrical tape to cover blisters, and generally used my teeth to rip it. Probably just dizziness from working with things over your head.
posted by checkitnice at 10:09 AM on February 23, 2013


Prop. 65 is the Joe Jackson proposition: "Everything gives you cancer."
posted by Lexica at 11:36 AM on February 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


You might also have a cold. It is cold season. And the symptoms of colds always appear after you've done something and they're almost never caused by the thing that precedes them in time.
posted by Capri at 5:26 PM on February 23, 2013


emumimic: My guess is that you might be allergic to the tape. I happen to be allergic to one particular cleaning product, and it makes me sneeze whenever it's sprayed. Other than that, the product cause me no issues (if it's been used to clean something previously, I have no adverse reaction).

Give it a day or two, and if you have no further reaction, then you're probably cool.
Tape is not a sprayable cleaning product. This is like comparing my allergy to horse hair with my use of an ink pen.

The OP is not allergic to tape. There's no evidence of that whatsoever: no history is mentioned of hives, itching, or other histamine reactions when handling plastics or other tapes. OP has already shown a susceptability to exaggerated worrying about posted warnings; don't add more things for randomname25 to obsess upon that are irrelevant.
posted by IAmBroom at 4:02 AM on February 24, 2013


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