We have just installed oak hardwood flooring in our
family room, and purchased the unfinished kind because
we will be matching the color to some existing hardwood
flooring. Although we brought it home and installed it
immediately, it will not be stained and finished for
another three weeks.
flooring has an acrid, sour smell, irritating to the
nose and throat, causing me to cough and have a runny
nose while in the room.
have opened all the windows, but after being down for
two weeks, it still smells. I realize the
staining/finishing process will cause more smell, but well
deal with that.
Building products contain what are known as
"volatile organic compounds," or VOCs. They
are emitted as gases a process known as off-gassing
and include a variety of chemicals, some of which
have short- or long-term effects on health, says the
Environmental Protection Agency.
of many VOCs are consistently higher indoors up to
10 times higher than outdoors, which is the reason
you are experiencing such reactions.
takes a while for VOCs to off-gas as long as two
years for some products and, of course, in a closed
room, the effects on you and your family can be severe.
people react more than others to VOCs usually those
with existing health problems, such as asthma.
"Adverse health effects in some sensitive
populations," as the EPA puts it.
are, however, a lot of products in the marketplace that
were once heavy on VOCs that are now billed as having
low levels or none.
most important, of course, are stains and paints. When
you are selecting stains for the floor and choosing
polyurethane to seal it, check the labels.
and no-VOC products are typically water-based. When they
were introduced to the market, those of us who had been
painting for years thought them inferior to the older
products adhesion was an issue, and flow was
products have improved, yet they remain expensive
because of the cost of replacement ingredients.