I've been in the green building material supply industry for almost 20 years. Back when I got started, my goal was to help folks remodel and live in healthier homes. The term "green" became popular about 10 years ago, reflecting the trend towards energy efficiency and global environmental concerns. Yet, in these last 10 years, human health concerns were forgotton when the the green building programs started poping up.
One would think that by now, though, folks would be pretty aware of hazards in their own homes, yet I still spend over 75% of my work day educating clients about them. I get dozens of emails and phone calls every day from folks across the US looking for help. So, I started writing a column called Ask Andy, where I can answer some of these questions in a way that helps many at the same time.
In this months column, I answered a question about the unpleasant odors coming from the vinyl in a three season room. Thought some of you might be intereted in reading about it.
Q: Andy, We have a three-season room on the back of our house. When we bought the home, the previous owner said that it was mainly built from aluminum and glass. Every time we go in that room, we are consumed by the horrible odor coming from the walls. After some investigation, we determined that many of the materials are made from vinyl. What can we do to eliminate the odors?
A: Hi Kathy…thanks for your question. The topic of vinyl out gassing is a regular discussion around my office. Without getting into a lengthy, complex description about the dozens of health hazards of vinyl, lets concentrate on the fact that if you can still smell it, it’s still a reason to be concerned. The chemically sensitive clients I have will go to almost any length to remove the source of vinyl in their homes. The vinyl industry experts will argue that vinyl chloride polymers are completely odorless. However, the quintessential vinyl odor you are dealing with is actually not the vinyl chloride polymer itself, rather, the additives to make it more flexible. Most often, phthalate plasticizers are used for this purpose. The softer the vinyl is, the higher the amounts of plasticizers are used. The extent of the detrimental human effect of these plasticizers is not fully known, but lets just say, you could spend months researching the FDA’s own website about it.
So, on to your question…the very best thing you can do is removing the source of the pollutant. This ensures that it won’t be problematic in the future. The next best thing is to follow the CSV principle. Clean…Seal…Ventilate. Wash down the vinyl surfaces using a material that does not leave a residue itself. Safechoice Super Clean and Shaklee Basic-H are the two I recommend. Seal the vinyl surfaces with AFM Hard Seal, by applying three thin coats, allowing 2-4 hours between coats. Please test this on a small, inconspicuous area first before doing the entire project. Vinyl is an extremely difficult surface for a water-based coating to adhere to. It’s a good idea to find this out on a small area first. Finally, ventilate. Fresh air, fans…whatever it takes to clear the air in the room.
The CSV method will remove some of the odor…maybe enough to make the room tolerable. It won’t, however, remove it completely. You will have judge whether it has improved to a level that is safe for you and your family. Good luck.