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Urethane-acrylate lacquer toxicity

  1. Jul 18, 2013 #1
    I am not a chemist but do have a concern regarding a coating that is applied to a linoleum flooring product likely soon to be used in my bedroom.

    Linoleum is the least toxic flooring type I could identify, suitable for the room in question. However, despite being made of 'natural' materials the manufacturer, Forbo, has unfortunately applied a protective coating to the linoleum made from synthetic materials with the brand name Topshield2.

    Forbo states its linoleum product is “Lacquered with a waterborne UV cured urethane-
    acrylate hybrid dispersion
    ”. It also states that it is non-toxic, but did not describe the testing condition(s).

    I have read that urethane paint and lacquer are extremely toxic and carcinogenic. My concern is that, although much safer once applied and dried, there could still be a toxicity risk from the lacquer. Under normal (linoleum flooring) use – walking, moving furniture, and so on – this coating could be agitated resulting in airborne particles which could be carcinogenic and inhaled. Is this a valid/reasonable concern?

    I would be very grateful for any advice regarding the merits of my concern, or lack thereof. Is the dried lacquer a different chemical to the toxic liquid form; if so, is this 'new' substance non-toxic, and any particles of it safe to inhale in quantities likely to be released through normal use of the floor?

  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 18, 2013 #2

    jim mcnamara

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    This is often misunderstood about finishes.

    The finish in question is toxic as a liquid. When hardened into a film - a polymer - it is not toxic. The polymer itself is a different molecule. Other volatile chemicals (VOC's) along with water are added to make the un-polymerized molecules of the the finish stay emulsified. These VOC's are also definitely not edible.

    One the finish is fully cured - the polymer has formed and the solvents including water have evaporated.

    ( Emulsion: Same idea is vegetable oil in mayonnaise. Mayo uses all edible products, that was just an example of getting oil to emulsify in water.)

    Let me try with something everyone knows. Dining room tables. Lots of wood furniture has a gloss film finish using nitrocellulose lacquer. In liquid form this finish stinks, and is really toxic. An example is the hobby product Deft. Once the solvent is gone, you can literally use a nitrocellulose film to wrap food. It is used today.
  4. Jul 18, 2013 #3
    Thank you. This is what I was thinking but not knowing for sure I had to be prudent and assume the worst. I'm grateful for your reply.

    I would still be interested in reading any study on the toxicity of dust/particles of the dried lacquer should anyone be able to link to one. I haven't been able to find one myself.

    Thanks again.

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