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Neoprene, also known as polychloroprene, was one of the first synthetic rubber products ever produced. Developed by a DuPont scientist in 1930, neoprene is typically stronger and harder than natural rubber and more resistant to water, oils, and solvents.
Uses and benefits
Today, neoprene is used in a wide range of applications, including medical, automotive, construction, water sports, and electronics.
Watersports and diving fabrics
Neoprene is used to make wetsuits and fly fishing waders because it helps provide insulation against the cold. Wetsuits made from closed-cell foam neoprene provide insulation against cold water by trapping heat in the suit.
Medical applications and personal protective equipment (PPE)
Because neoprene is flexible and retains its shape over time, it can be used to make padding for orthopedic braces for the wrist and knee. Lab personnel who handle chemicals can use synthetic rubber gloves made of neoprene - which tend to have good flexibility, finger dexterity, high density and tear resistance - to protect their hands from prolonged chemical exposure. Gloves made of neoprene help protect the wearer's hands from hydraulic fluid, gasoline, alcohol, organic acids and alkalis.
Because of its abrasion, tear, oil and weather resistance, neoprene is used in the manufacture of automotive parts such as fan belts, hose covers, shock absorber seals and brake and steering system components. Neoprene fabrics are also commonly used in the manufacture of automotive seat covers.
Neoprene has a low oxidation rate and can be used in a variety of construction applications, including electrical insulation, adhesives and asphalt products. Thick neoprene bearing pads are used in construction to withstand the stresses of heavy loads and loads. Neoprene is chemically inert to help resist the effects of weather, ozone and other outdoor variables, and is resistant to petroleum-based mixtures such as solvents, oils and greases.
Neoprene bearing pads are also used in bridges as a safety mechanism. They give bridges the flexibility to minimize damage from movement. Because it is stable and non-reactive, neoprene is also used to create corrosion-resistant coatings and as a base for adhesives.
Because of its fire and antistatic properties, neoprene is used as an insulator in power transformers, light bulbs, and other electrical applications. Neoprene is also used in electrical sealing gaskets to provide a watertight seal, heat and static resistance, and to keep out dust and contaminants.
Neoprene's cushioning ability makes it ideal for laptop sleeves and other electronics protection. It is also used in fitness equipment as a soft coating for hand weights.
Neoprene is largely inert, making it harmless to consumers in the products in which it is used.
Occupational exposure to neoprene, which is used in the manufacture of neoprene, can occur through skin contact or inhalation. Workers in neoprene manufacturing environments should take appropriate precautions to reduce or prevent exposure, such as wearing self-contained breathing apparatus and personal protective equipment to minimize contact with skin and eyes.
Symptoms of acute exposure to high levels of chloroprene include dizziness, irritability, lightheadedness, fatigue, headache, and respiratory irritation. Acute exposure may also damage the kidneys, lungs, liver and affect the central nervous system. Long-term exposure can lead to fatigue, chest pain and abnormal liver function.