Furniture Finishes And Health And Safety Concerns
Very real concerns for our health and the purity of our personal and shared environments have led to efforts to restrict the selection of finishes available for refinishing furniture. The solvent based finishes of the twentieth century are no longer options due to their high percentages of volatile organic compounds (VOC = the precursors to air pollution). In addition, during application they required the use of respirators due to the presence of toxic components, and they were highly flammable
Water based finishes are low VOC, they have no toxic components and are non flammable. Water based finishes are formulated with either alcohols or ammonia, ours use alcohols, so even ammonia as a potential concern is not present with the finishes we use. People sensitive to odors sometimes smell a mild soap like odor, and that dissipates rapidly.
If you are considering other options for refinishing your furniture, we recommend that you query the refinishers you are considering concerning the finishes they are using. By now, virtually all of us are using finishing materials that comply with air quality regulations. However, for refinishing, the range of acceptable VOC emissions is fairly broad. Water based finishes are very low in VOC content, other compliant finishes can be at the upper end of the allowed range. Besides the air quality concerns, most other finishes used are still solvent based, flammable and contain toxins. People sensitive to certain solvents may also have trouble with the off-gassing of the solvents in modern reformulated lacquers which are VOC compliant.
It is not difficult to conclude that the best choice in finishes from the perspective of health and safety, is certainly water based finishes.