GBA Logo horizontal Facebook LinkedIn Email Pinterest Twitter X Instagram YouTube Icon Navigation Search Icon Main Search Icon Video Play Icon Plus Icon Minus Icon Picture icon Hamburger Icon Close Icon Sorted

Community and Q&A

Identifying Harmful Varnish and Stain Ingredients

FumedOut | Posted in General Questions on

Hi folks,

Just added new floors on top of silicon vapor barrier.
Chemically sensitive and went for no-VOC stain + varnish.
After 2 weeks, I can still feel burning in my nose.

Inside conditions during the period: Temp: low 50s, inside humidity 62%, fans circulating air in and out. did a bout of heating for a week at 72 while maintaining some ventilation.

Going through the ingredients list, trying to understand what components could be causing that reaction and how long before they fully evaporate or get neutralized somehow.

Please advise, Thank you.

SDS + Ingredients of
– 2-Ethylhexyl acrylate
– Ammonium hydroxide
– Polyoxyethylene monooctadecyl ether

Vehicle Water H2O
Binder Acrylic Flexible elastic polymer
Ethylene oxide urethane Used to sterilize medical equipment
Defoamer Mineral Oil Used in moisturizers
Preservative Sodium Salt Used in shampoo
Rheology Modifier Modified Paraffin Wax product
Surfactant Ethoxylated Acetylenic Wetting agent for inks

SDS + ingredients list of
– 2-Ethylhexyl acrylate
– Sodium hypochlorite

Vehicle Water H2O
Binder Acrylic Flexible elastic polymer
Corrosion Inhibitor Sodium Benzoate Used in food pickling
Defoamer Mineral Oil Used in moisturizers
pH Stabilizer Ammonium Hydroxide Used to treat water
Preservative Sodium Nitrite Food additive
Sodium Salt Used in shampoo
Surfactant Fluorosurfactant Used in eyeshields and gloves
Thickener Polysaccharide Food additive

GBA Prime

Join the leading community of building science experts

Become a GBA Prime member and get instant access to the latest developments in green building, research, and reports from the field.


  1. GBA Editor
    Kiley Jacques | | #1

    Hi FumedOut,

    I posed your question to building biologist and founder of My Chemical-Free House Corrine Segura. My hope is she will weigh in here.

    1. FumedOut | | #3

      Thank you.

  2. corinnesegura | | #2

    Hi, You can't tell what something offgasses by looking at the ingredients - unless you were an expert chemist. The ingredients all come together to form a chemical reaction. ECOS products have been measured to be 0 VOC at 2 weeks times in more normal conditions.

    You may want to talk to them about offgassing times at that colder temperature and see if there were any errors in how it was applied as well.

    I have worked with chemically sensitive folks who are extremely sensitive and react to a paint for much longer than the time that it should have in theory reached 0 VOC status.

    It's also highly likely in these cases there is something else going on. With my clients, I often see people who have just moved into a new to them house and did not spend enough time it in before starting renos to find out if they were reacting to other elements in the house.

    It often happens that the contractors used something else. New baseboards (MDF), caulking around flooring-baseboard or at the top of the baseboard, cleaning up caulking with solvents, using other cleaning products on the job, etc.

    1. FumedOut | | #4

      Thank you for your answer,
      I will get in touch with the Ecos folks.
      For context, this work is a remediation to the situation I described in the following article:

      So yes, there's a ton of stuff under these new floors + vapor barrier we were reacting to. This is an attempt to encapsulate the stuff and prevent propagation in our unit.

      There's always the possibility that the encapsulation was not successful and the fumes are still permeating through the new material or other avenues (walls drywall?)


      1. corinnesegura | | #5

        Ah I see, yes it is almost certainly the other materials and not the ECOS that you are reacting to.

    2. GBA Editor
      Kiley Jacques | | #6

      Thank you for the insights, Corrine. There are so many considerations, and it's valuable to be aware of and reminded to think about all the different variables.

Log in or create an account to post an answer.


Recent Questions and Replies

  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |