Polyurethane Fume Exposure And Your Health: What You Need To Know
It's no secret that many paints, varnishes, and clear coats emit VOCs and other harmful compounds after they've been applied to a surface. But of all types of fumes and toxins, avoiding polyurethane fumes may be the most essential due to their potential for harmful side effects. Here's what you need to know about polyurethane fumes and how they relate to your health.
Using polyurethane indoors can expose you to fumes with a number of potential side effects. These fumes could lead to irritation of the eyes, throat, and lungs, and could cause more severe allergic reactions for individuals with chemical sensitivities.
Respiratory Issues First, polyurethane is a petrochemical resin that contains known respiratory toxins called isocyanates. When left uncured, polyurethane can cause asthma and other breathing problems. Individuals who spend time in rooms that have uncured polyurethane floor treatments may also experience health issues like throat and eye irritation, nausea, vomiting, headaches, coughing, and shortness of breath. You should also keep in mind that children who are exposed to polyurethane fumes may be more prone to developing these issues because of their sensitive immune systems. Individuals with existing respiratory issues are also disproportionately affected.
While these health hazards are definitely troubling, remember that these are only the known health risks of polyurethane fumes in the home.
Prevention Eco friendly options are always the most ideal treatment for hardwood floors, but polyurethane exposure can also be limited by allowing proper curing before re-entering the affected area. Curing times will vary based on the type and quantity of the product as well as the type of floor and air flow. If you aren't sure when it will be save to re-enter the treatment area, it's best to be conservative. In an abundance of caution, it's better to wait too long than too little.
Your environment and local climate can also impact polyurethane cure times. "If you live in a humid climate, the product can also take longer to cure. Water-based polyurethane typically takes less time to fully cure. Over time, the polyurethane will become less and less toxic," writes Josh Arnold on SFGate Home Guides.
Ultimately, VOCs are considered harmful to human health and should be avoided when possible. In a recent study, participants spent six full work days in an environmentally-controlled office space at the TIEQ lab at the Syracuse Center of Excellence. In this space, VOC levels were reduced to approximately 50 micrograms per cubic meter and 40 cubic feet per minute of outdoor air per person. They found that, on average, cognitive scores in the environmentally controlled space were 101% higher than in conventional workspaces.
Overall, investing in a zero VOC or eco-friendly clear coat with no polyurethane odor* is the ideal treatment for hardwood floors because it's the only way to avoid bringing unnecessary toxins and fumes into your home. Explore ECOS Paints' water-based varnishes for all of your wood finishing needs.
*No Polyurethane Odor - Polyurethane can cause headaches, nausea and respiratory issues. Conforms to ASTM E544 & ASTM MNL13.