Headaches, earaches and difficulty sleeping after Swedish finish was applied

Q: Our landlord has applied L***** Swedish floor finish upstairs (we live in the basement). We have had headaches, earaches and difficulty sleeping last week when we came home after 24 hours (when they said it was safe). The smell and headaches continued for 5 days after the first coat. This week they put on the second coat of toxic Swedish finish, and we are staying elsewhere for the first 3 days at great inconvenience. My question is – how toxic is this stuff and how long should we stay away?

I would also appreciate studies about this product regarding safety.

A: Swedish finish? Sounds so exotic or European. It is also known as acid cured! I haven’t used an acid cure finish for years. They are tough coatings, but they are also very nasty to apply. They emit Formaldehyde and other solvents while drying. All the windows should be opened to thoroughly ventilate the house. Use a fan if needed to move the contaminated air out and draw fresh air in. I don’t use these finishes because of safety concerns, and would recommend nobody stay in the house until the smell has dissipated. I don’t have any studies on L***** coatings but I have attached the material safety data sheet. There is a phone number on it which you might want to call. Even the “flash point” is very low at 40F. That is not safe. A spark from a thermostat during application could have caused an explosion. If your landlord did this coating himself, I would advise him to leave this work to professionals.

Follow-up Question: Thank you so much for your reply and the attachment. The contractor is saying there isn’t any danger. The smell hung around for 5 days very intensely after the first treatment on 1/15. The 2nd treatment was 1/22. This time we have stayed away. Should we wait to go back until all the smell is gone? It never went away entirely after the 1/15 treatment. I’m just trying to figure out what/when it is safe.

A: I would think you will want to wait until the smell is gone, otherwise it will still be burning your eyes, nose and throat. I would be very interested to know what would happen if somebody entered the house with an instrument that could measure what was in the air. Then you would know for sure. I’ve worked with this type of finish so I know you don’t want to be in there. It is nasty. I did hear an unverified story back in the 1980’s that an acid cure finish was applied on the main floor of a house. 2 dogs were in the basement. They both died!