Q: My builder’s wonderful flooring company installed red oak hardwood floors on the whole main floor of our house and now I hear that Europe banned the Swedish finish used on our floors almost 20 years ago. I need to know how toxic these floors are, about toxic Swedish finish, and is there a finish I can apply over the finish in order to seal in the gassing off?
A: I have not used these finishes in probably over 20 years. They are terrible to apply and require approved respirators which were not provided when I was an employee.
I will say this about them. They are the toughest finishes I have ever worked with. I attach a document that deals with your concerns and it will be up to you what you do with it from there.
What is formaldehyde and why is it in Swedish finish?
By Duane Bartel, President, Glitsa American – Part Two of Four
Could Swedish finish fumes harm our pets?
Related Q: We are having Swedish finish put on our floors. We have a pet rabbit in our attached garage. Just one wall between the living room and the garage. Should he be removed from the house while the floors are refinished? Could the fumes harm him?
A: The vapors off that type of coating are seriously nasty, at least the last time I used it they were. It is so bad, I wouldn’t choose to use this finish though it is very tough. Definitely move any pets and people away until you know there are no more fumes.
Multiple Chemical Sensitivity from Swedish finish?
Related Q: Our family had our hardwood floors done with Swedish finish. I started getting sick shortly after and myself and 2 children now have a Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. I also have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome. This illness has been disabling and I know it was from the finish. We had the floors removed 9 months later and you could smell them 2 blocks away when they were outside. A darker stain was used for the upstairs bedrooms. The one set of stairs going to our lower level had a natural stain and did not smell, so we left them in. We were told it would be safe to move back in after 3 days.
I’m wondering how many people have had health issues as well after using Swedish finish. I would love to connect with others who have been affected by the finish. How easy is it for contractors to screw up the application of this stain and finish?
A: How do you know exposure to this finish is the cause of your illness? I’m not saying it may not contribute, but how do you know? We are exposed to toxins people didn’t face before the industrial revolution. I could name a few. Poison food, genetically altered and slathered with poison to kill bugs and weeds. Vaccines that contain toxins like mercury, Msg, aluminum etc. City water which has fluoride added deliberately. I say all that because all these things can, I believe, put our bodies under a load that eventually can overwhelm some people. Even some building supplies like plywood may use adhesives that off-gas formaldehyde forever. It may be a small amount, but when it is added to the same off-gassing from a Swedish finish it might cause a problem.
I used those finishes a few times years ago when I was an employee. They were really nasty. I would never use it when I started my own business. Even to sand it off some years later it would till burn the eyes and cause gagging. I have no idea what the formulation is now but it sounds like it hasn’t changed enough. Normal polyurethane isn’t as tough but it doesn’t off-gass forever. Once the solvent is evaporated out of the film, within 24 hours (generally mineral spirits) that is it. No more smell.
How were all these floors removed? How did they contain the dust? I assume they had to cut some of it into sections to get it up. It wouldn’t be helpful if tiny dust particles are all over the walls and into the ventilation system.
I’m not aware of any studies specifically for this type of finish on human health. Most companies have product data sheets that can be downloaded indicating what hazardous chemicals may be used. There was a man with vast experience in all facets of wood flooring, including manufacturering who actually worked at Glitza and ran a web site for wood floor professionals. Bill Price Sr. ran floormasters and died a few years back after many years of struggle with nasal cancer. He believes he got it from long term inhaling of certain types of wood dust. I’ve been exposed to much also including lead paint without a mask as an employee. I will be 66 on March 2, having finally closed my own business after more than 45 years in the trade, 25 of which I ran my own show. I invested in dust control.
I don’t know what mast cell activation syndrome is? I’m in over my pay grade, but if it was me, I think I’d be looking for a good naturalpath doctor, and get on a high nutrition diet with supplements. Obvously, you will have to be very careful about any cleaning products, finishes and food toxins you are exposed to. I had an email from a woman who lives in Indiana last week. She is just getting over dealing with lead poisoning. She got sick from lipstick!
I hope you can find all the answers you need to help you health.