My name is Tom Reinerth (aka Dominator Tom in Epic) and I am the owner of Podium Racing, the company that distributes DOMINATOR waxes here in the US. I have been lucky enough to be involved in snow sports as far back as I can remember, but I will not bore you with these details. If interested, you can read more that subject at this link:
As of 1/1/2013 I am an insider at Epic and I plan to spend some time in the Tuning and Maintenance section. I want to wish everybody a happy and healthy New Year and healthy is the key word, as I’m kind of a health nut, so I want to point your attention to our waxroom safety manual:
I am proud to say that I am the one that initiated our wax room safety awareness program back when DOMINATOR was founded. In 1993, I was a serviceman for the Salomon Race Department traveling on the pro tour, waxing for domestic FIS and Nor-Am Speed Races and twisting bindings for World Cup events. At that time we were testing what would later become the DOMINATOR waxes. You can read more about it here:
I had just received some samples from Thanos and when I called him for details I asked another question that was on my mind. We had travel-waxed 20+ pair of DH skis with a Euro fluoro wax that we used frequently in those days and I noticed it was harder for me to breathe after each session of hot waxing. I wondered if it was possible that this wax did something to the oxygen in the room? Thanos’ answer did not make me feel any better; he said that what it did was reduce the volume of oxygen I was able to take with each breath, and was doing something to my lungs, not to the air in the room. However, he was quick to say that I would be ok in a couple of days (which was true) and that ALL waxes did that, not just the one I used to travel wax. He also told me I should wear a respirator when I wax, and even then I should stop and get some fresh air after waxing a few pair of skis.
The next race series I went to was the Canadian National Championships at Nakiska. At the downhill, the upper lift was closed due to high winds and we had to hike our racer’s skis up the steep hill to the start; I was wheezing and felt like passing out by the time I made it to the top. My ability to “breathe deeply under strain" returned after a few days, but I learned the lesson to protect myself.
When I began working with Dominator, I insisted that we put in place a safety program. I was concerned about myself as well as the other technicians (many who are life-long friends) along with the racers (many who are also life-long friends) who were hot-waxing in small, unventilated areas like parking garages, basements and waxing trailers. Thanos agreed to the program without hesitation. I’m sure his chemical industry background taught him that there were responsibility and liability considerations in consumer products, so we put a section in our manual and written warnings on all of our wax packages; not only the fluorinated waxes, but also straight hydrocarbons.
I can tell you that started a hailstorm of sorts as some dealers were skeptical about putting a wax with safety warnings on their shelves and, at the same time, the other wax companies started accusing us of sensationalism. A number of competing companies even took a few cheap shots; they were saying that we put the warning on our packaging because our waxes were possibly toxic, leaving you to believe all their waxes were perfectly benign. There were times in the beginning when I thought that maybe we went too hard by being up-front with printed warnings on our packaging, or that Thanos was annoyed with me for pushing so
hard -- as rocking the boat does not help sales – but he laughed it off and joked that if we let our customers kill themselves there would be nobody left to buy wax.
Twenty years later it turns out we were doing the right thing to take a hard line back then, and it is completely true that the other major wax companies have clearly changed their tune on this issue. Now, there are only one or two small outfits stupidly, and irresponsibly insisting that their waxes are somehow safe and inferring ours may not be, but the official verdict is out. The wax room safety manual is based on work done by independent, qualified researchers and they trump forum experts all day, every day. So read the safety article and decide for yourself.
There are a couple of other points I want to make that are not included in the wax article, but are important to keep in mind. There is a lot of confusion because of chemistry terms and they must be clarified. (I am not a chemist, but this is not upper graduate work here)
HF is the formula for hydrofluoric acid, a very toxic chemical. But in the wax industry, it is also the designation for High Fluoro content waxes. So some people can be confused, because the two HF meanings are sometimes used without distinction.
HF (hydrofluoric acid) can form from the fluoro additive when it is heated to 550 degrees Fahrenheit or higher; this is unlikely to be done by ironing because your base would be toast long before that. So the concern is not hydrofluoric acid when you iron wax at normal iron temperatures, the concern are the airborne particles that are generated when the HF (high fluoro content) waxes are ironed.
HF (hydrofluoric acid) CAN be generated in the wax room, not by ironing, but if a fluoro wax comes in contact with a flame, a lit cigarette, an electric heater, a heat gun heating element, a fireplace fire…. take your pick. The cigarette is an especially sneaky delivery vehicle. When people iron, brush or scrape fluoro waxes, there is some wax left on their fingers, when they light a cigarette the wax transfers to the cigarette paper then it later burns as the cigarette gets smaller and, surprise, they inhale hydrofluoric acid. So, if you smoke, (and why would you anyway) it is smart for you to use gloves when you work with fluoros or, at the very least, wash your hands very well before lighting a cigarette, or .... if you're in Colorado ......
I am not posting this looking to start a long discussion with anybody about this, I am only reporting what the experts say. You can make your own decisions and if you think the experts are wrong, write your own scientific paper and send it in to be published. And, by the way, I am not saying that you should take it to extremes. When I wax my skis with Race Zoom New Snow to slash some tasty pow on my home mountain of Snowbasin, Utah, I don’t use a respirator in my well-ventilated workshop. But, to the contrary, when I am doing race tunes or waxing multiple skis or boards, the respirator gets full-use.
By reading past Epic posts I see that there are many people here that wax frequently, so they should take the time to read the safety article and then decide for themselves what precautions they want to take.
I hope to be joining in some tuning and waxing discussions and if you have questions, feel free to ask. If you want to ask something that is not of interest to everybody, you can send me a private message, or if you need a quick response, a message in the DOMINATOR Wax Facebook page. I will be checking my Epic pm’s as time allows, but we respond to our Facebook messages within 12 hours.
Best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year.