When you work as a professional in any sector, the last thing you want to do is contribute to someone’s suffering. Sure, you can occasionally whack your fingers with a hammer, but putting someone else in danger is strictly prohibited.
That is why, before you panic and quit your day job, it is critical to debunk some polyurethane falsehoods.
We’ll answer polyurethane health risks today. and it looks like it’ll be a good one.
Without further ado, let’s get started…
Polyurethane Health Risks
Is polyurethane toxic? Polyurethane is a poisonous substance. Polyurethane that has not been cured is dangerous and can aggravate persons who have respiratory difficulties.
That does not, however, imply that you are endangering anyone. You and everyone else near the product will be safe if you apply polyurethane correctly, whether it’s oil-based or water-based. Even better, non-toxic polyurethane, such as Green poly, is available.
What Makes Polyurethane Toxic in the First Place?
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are substances that are produced as gases, are the main components that make polyurethanes hazardous. Many chemical-containing household items, such as sprays, pesticides, air fresheners, permanent markers, glues, copiers and printers, and so on, emit VOCs.
Depending on the time and intensity of exposure, VOCs have been related to a variety of health impacts. You may experience headaches, dizziness, nausea, nasal irritation, and asthmatic episodes after being exposed to a modest amount of VOCs for a few hours or days.
Long-term high-dose exposure can result in cancer, harm to the central nervous system, and damage to the liver and kidneys.
Don’t get too worked up if you’ve been using polyurethane over polyurethane for years. Aside from the time of exposure, the quantity is also important to consider. You’ll also notice that some of these products are used more frequently than polyurethane.
Every household product must be approved by the Environmental Protection Agency, which means that the amounts of VOCs generated by polyurethane are insufficient to cause serious health problems. Mild dizziness is the most common symptom among users, but even that is uncommon.
Isocyanates are another component that makes polyurethane poisonous. These chemicals are essential in the production of polyurethane and have effects similar to VOCs. Although isocyanates are not known to cause cancer in humans, they have been shown to induce cancer in animals.
The most prevalent side symptoms of isocyanate poisoning include asthma and respiratory issues, as well as irritation of the eyes, skin, nose, and throat.
Again, this sounds horrible, but we’re dealing with a potentially dangerous situation. It’s worth noting that these negative effects are more likely to occur during the manufacturing process than during the application phase.
When polyurethane dries, it stops emitting VOCs and the isocyanates become harmless. There are various safeguards you can take during the application process.
Toxicity of Polyurethane: Which Polyurethane Is the Most Toxic?
Oil-based polyurethane is more hazardous than water-based polyurethane, the two main forms of polyurethane.
Both varieties release VOCs, but oil-based poly emits significantly more. This is due to the fact that the chemicals used to create oil-based polyurethane include a higher concentration of VOC-containing molecules.
These compounds are not required in the manufacturing of water-based polyurethanes. VOCs, on the other hand, are prevalent in a wide range of items and hence find their way in.
As a result, producers have put greater effort into increasing the scratch resistance and durability of water-based polyurethane. Even if they are more expensive to the consumer, it is far easier to get them under the government-approved thresholds.
Is Polyurethane Toxic in What Situations?
There is just one time when polyurethanes are harmful, and that is when they are being applied.
Spraying polyurethane is the most dangerous because it allows VOCs and isocyanates to disperse more easily into the air, where they can come into contact with the body.
As a result, it’s critical to only use polyurethane in well-ventilated areas and to use personal protective equipment.
Unless someone sets fire to the polyurethane, it will no longer be poisonous. In that case, swiftly extinguish the fire and cover your nose with a mask.
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What are the Health Consequences of VOCs?
Is polyurethane harmful to people? VOCs, on the other hand, have no negative impacts on individuals under typical circumstances. They can, however, be hazardous in high doses and over long periods of time, and have been linked to health problems such as asthma, nausea, and headaches, among others.
Is it possible for polyurethane fumes to kill you?
No, unless you have a serious allergic reaction, polyurethane fumes cannot kill you. As previously stated, prolonged and sustained exposure to high levels of VOCs might have negative consequences. Unless you spend hours in a can, these high amounts are uncommon in household items.
If you have asthma, you should exercise extreme caution when applying polyurethane or any other form of paint or finish.
What should I do if I get polyurethane on my hand?
If you get polyurethane on your hands, clean them with mineral spirit. All you’ll need for water-based polyurethane is soap and water.
You can also rub in some baby oil, vegetable oil, or peanut butter and then wash it away with dish soap. Remember to use moisturizer afterward, as it might dramatically reduce your skin’s natural oils.
Although polyurethane on the skin does not often cause irritation, some people are allergic to the compounds included in it.
What should I do if I get polyurethane in my eyes?
If polyurethane gets into your eyes, immediately rinse them with clean, running water for fifteen minutes before seeing a doctor. Even though flushing polyurethane is unlikely to cause any long-term or substantial harm, it’s always best to be safe than sorry.
What Happens if Polyurethane Is Inhaled?
Polyurethane reacts with our internal fluids and forms a glue when it enters the mouth. This adhesive continues to spread, potentially obstructing our esophagus or stomach. If you swallow small amounts of polyurethane by accident, you may be able to flush it out by drinking a lot of liquid.
However, you should still consult a doctor because the effects may take many hours to manifest.
Is Polyurethane Harmful to Animals?
Polyurethanes, particularly oil-based polyurethane, are hazardous to dogs and pets. While the odor may irritate some people, continuous exposure to VOCs and isocyanates can cause cancer.
If an animal ingests polyurethane, it must be taken to the veterinarian right away. As the glue swells, it has the potential to perforate the esophagus or stomach, resulting in death. As a result, it’s critical to keep your chemicals safely both before and after usage.
Polyurethane Safety: How Can You Keep Yourself Safe When Working With Polyurethane?
The two most crucial things to do to avoid polyurethane fumes negative effects are:
• Make sure you’re working in a well-ventilated area.
· Protect yourself by using personal protective equipment. Wear overalls and gloves when spraying polyurethane.
• When applying oil-based polyurethane, you should also wear gloves. As previously said, this may not irritate all users, but it does irritate some.
• Goggles are also recommended because you don’t want the water to splatter into your eyes.
• After applying the polyurethane, step away from the area for a few hours to allow it to dry. It is critical not to remain in the area while it dries.
• During and shortly after application, make sure no children, dogs, or others with allergies are in the vicinity.
• If you’re using oil-based polyurethane, you may need to leave the room or house empty for three to four weeks to allow the polyurethane to cure.
5 Polyurethane Alternatives
• Varnish is a clear, transparent protective coating that, in many ways, resembles polyurethane. Polyurethane, shellac, and lacquer are all considered varnish in technical terms.
• Shellac is an amber-colored finish made from the excrement of the female lac beetle, which can be found in Thailand, Burma, and India on trees. Shellac is UV-resistant and environmentally safe.
3. Tung oil
Tung oil is obtained from the seed of the tung tree, which is native to China, and is one of the world’s oldest finishes. As a result, it’s sometimes referred to as Chinese wood oil.
4. Linseed oil
Linseed oil, often known as flaxseed oil, is a natural oil made from flaxseed. Linseed oil can be used alone or with other products like varnish, stains, and paints.
5. The lacquer
Lacquer is a common finish for cabinets and many high-end pieces of furniture. Despite being a very thin finish, it dries quickly and is extremely long-lasting.
FAQs about Polyurethane Toxicity in Humans
How long does polyurethane take to stop smelling?
The smell of polyurethane takes about 5 to 7 days to go away. Water-based polyurethane will have a slight odor for 21 days, and oil-based polyurethane will have a slight odor for 30 days. Here’s how to get rid of the odor of polyurethane.
When polyurethane dries, is it toxic?
No, once polyurethane has dried completely, it is not poisonous (cured). The VOCs it emits, as well as the presence of isocyanates, make polyurethane hazardous. Once polyurethane has cured, which takes around three weeks for water-based polyurethane and four weeks for oil-based polyurethane, both of them are made harmless.
Is polyurethane based on water toxic?
Water-based polyurethane is, in fact, hazardous. However, it is marginally less harmful than polyurethane made from oil. This is due to the fact that the chemical used to manufacture water-based polyurethane includes fewer VOC-containing chemicals (volatile organic compounds). As a result, the adverse effects of water-based polyurethane are less severe than those of oil-based polyurethane.
Polyurethane is a non-toxic material.
Tung oil, linseed oil, and shellac are among non-toxic polyurethane alternatives (in its pure form). Water-based polyurethane is less harmful, and some firms are working on polyurethane with zero volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
What is the duration of polyurethane fumes?
Polyurethane fumes have a 21-day shelf life for water-based polyurethane and a 30-day shelf life for oil-based polyurethane. The time range for fast-drying variations is much shorter, ranging from 3 to 7 days for water-based polyurethane.
Side effects of polyurethane fumes
Polyurethane fumes, when not entirely cured, can cause asthma and trouble breathing in persons who already have respiratory problems. Polyurethane fumes can also induce eye, nose, and throat irritation, as well as vomiting, headaches, shortness of breath, and disorientation.
Is polyurethane a safe material? Although polyurethane is poisonous, it does not represent a serious concern when handled properly. You’ll be fine as long as you follow the manufacturer’s recommendations, use protective equipment, and work in a well-ventilated area.
Assume, however, that while applying polyurethane, you experienced any of the symptoms listed above. In that scenario, it could be an indication of allergies, and you should seek medical advice.
Stick with water-based polyurethanes if you want to reduce risk. Read our assessment of the best water-based polyurethanes for hardwood floors as a good place to start.