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Your Place: Volatile Compounds Can Be Irritants

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By Alan J. Heavens

wood_floor_installation(MCT)—Q: 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.

The 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.

We 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 we’ll deal with that.

A: 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.

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