Will polyurethane fumes harm my child?

Q: We finished our floors yesterday and this morning, with two coats of polyurethane. It is dry; however, we are sleeping in the house with my 3 year old and I’m starting to freak out that the fumes will harm her. The room we are in has the old flooring. Will she be ok? Please let me know!

A: You will have to be the judge of conditions there. Label warnings are related to occupational over exposure to solvents. This means a person who works with such regularly, not a one time exposure. Having said that, it is possible to have a reaction under high concentration exposure. You wouldn’t put a solvent in a bag and then inhale it would you? Just saying. If it is strong enough to burn your eyes you should not be in there.

Similar Q: I just built an indoor gym at my house, but not attached to my house. I used a big time wood basketball floor company for the maple wood floor. They have done high school and college gyms all over the place. They sealed the floor with oil based polyurethane. They put on 4 coats over 4 consecutive days. They said it would be safe after 5 days. But after 5 days, it smelled real strong and I could feel it in my eyes a little when in there. It has now been 3 weeks, and the smell is getting better, but I can still smell it. I have fans running in there 24/7 and it is air conditioned. I contacted the company (Polo Plaz – http://www.poloplaz.com/magnum/ ) that made the sealant, and their website says the cure period is 3 days. I talked to one of their reps and he said that after a week, that the smell is not harmful as the VOCs are gone.

I have been letting my son play ball in there an hour or two a day, but I’m starting to wonder if that is a problem. He says the smell does not bother him. I have been in there also a few times for an hour or so, and I kind of feel like it makes me want to cough, but probably dreaming that up.

My question is: Is breathing this smell dangerous or harmful in any way?

A: Interesting question. I have been using Poloplaz Primero for a number of years. Excellent product. They have a good team of chemists also. When I arrive at a job site I can generally tell even before I look at the floors if they are dry for another coat. If it smells strong and my eyes burn it probably isn’t ready. This product dries very well. If each coat was not dry, the following application would have wrinkled the film.

If your son was being irritated by solvents he probably would be exhibiting the symptoms: watering eyes, coughing. And you often can taste the finish when you exhale. It may actually be that you have over the years been exposed to a lot of toxins and you are on over load. You may want to check into that. Hyper sensitivity can indicate this is the case.

Follow-up Q: Thanks for getting back with me. The film is not wrinkled. Floor looks amazing. So sounds like you are saying that in your view, his exposure 7 days after the last coat without him complaining of any symptoms was likely harmless even though there was an obvious smell?

A: Yes that would be my view. That there is any smell after that time to me is odd. I don’t believe what you are smelling is solvent which has already long left the film and dissipated. I’m a little more concerned by gases I can’t smell.

3 thoughts on “Will polyurethane fumes harm my child?”

  1. Hello, I live in a New York City apartment building. A new neighbor apparently used oil based floor products to finish her floor directly upstairs from our home. She (or her contractor left a gaping hole with a 2-3 inch diameter in the front door, so the fumes traveled via the elevator shaft and stairs to our landing, one floor down. I’m beside myself with anxiety over this because our daughter in law, about 4 months pregnant at the time, visited at exactly that time. It was the weekend, and it didn’t quite sink in what was happening until she and everyone else were exposed to the fumes. The work was done on a Friday and left to dry over the weekend. I think their windows were closed. In addition, my husband had leukemia several years ago. He is one of the lucky ones who recovered, but I remember specifically being asked at the time of his diagnosis whether he had previously been exposed to benzene. I feel as if my family has been violently assaulted. The owner of the apartment in question stayed far away, but left my unknowing family exposed and wondering where the smell was coming from. Any thoughts about the exposure of my family to these toxic fumes? Thank you.

  2. I had my hard wood floors , doors and baseboards varnished with Minwax semi-gloss oil polyurethane varnished in early May. My tenant is complaining that it still smells. How can I get rid of the smell? Thank you!!

  3. Hi! Please help! We had our floors refinished 3 days ago- Swedish finish. We want to move back in but the smell is still pretty strong. After having the house closed up for 24 hours after the final coat, we have had doors/windows open to ventilate. Is it safe to move back in now? And we noticed a small area that’s still tacky. Is that bad/dangerous? I really appreciate any input you can provide. We have 2 small kids so I’m stressing out.

Leave a Comment