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Dr. Muneeb Ali
Dr. Muneeb Ali, Intensivist
Category: Neurology
Satisfied Customers: 3131
Experience:  Experience of Neurology of over 4 years, well versed in EEG, NCS and EMG alongwith MRIs and CT scans
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I purchased a chair made of polyurethane. It is emitting an

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I purchased a chair made of polyurethane. It is emitting an odor that causes a headache and some nauseau/stomach discomfort. It's not overpowering, but the smell is distinctly there. I understand that polyurethane and PVC can emit fumes that are toxic. Is this toxic to the point of being a health concern and can cause brain or neurological damage? That's what I get for buying Made in China.....

Hi,

Im sorry to hear about your situation. Well polyurethane and PVC fumes can cause issues with your health, actually they mostly effect the lungs and can cause acute attacks of asthma and long term exposure to concentrated fumes on a daily basis can lead to development of interstitial lung diseases. But as far as neurological or brain issues are concerned, there isnt any significant data which links the exposure to these substances with significant brain pathologies. The headache which you are having can be due to a number of reasons, it is possible that the fumes are irritating the sinuses which can lead to increased post nasal drip as well as frontal headaches in many patients. A mild allergic reaction to the fumes can also cause a headache of this sort as well. A simple way to check would be to remove the chair from your immediate vicinity, put it in the garage etc and see if the headache improves, if it does you have your answer. Secondly, if the headache occurs first thing in the morning after waking up or is associated with vomiting, blurring of vision, weakness or numbness in the limbs, balance issues then it is important to rule out actual neurological causes for your headaches. Also if the headaches have been persistent for more than 2 weeks then it is advisable to have it evaluated even if it is likely to be due to the fumes emitted by the chair.

But as far as long term health issues are concerned, the data for these fumes causing neurological damage to the brain etc is lacking however it can cause lung issues if exposed to concentrated fumes for a prolonged period of time.

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Customer: replied 1 month ago.
Thank you for that great response. The headaches and nauseau only happen when I sniff the chair (to see how potent/unpleasant the fumes are.) I was told that such fumes can continue to be emitted for up to a week. So apparently PVC and polyurethane are only a lung or respiratory issue, but not so much a brain-damage issue or nervous system thing? Does it make a difference if it's a 28-year old adult (me) inhaling the fumes, or if there are young children nearby inhaling it as well? Could it damage a child's nervous system and brain? What exactly is the fume being emitted by PVC or polyurethane?Oh, also - what if the fumes accidentally get heated? If I cook food on a flame in the kitchen, or use the dryer, either way, there would be fumes getting sucked into an extremely high-temperature heat, would that convert it into an even more toxic carcinogen or phosgene-like toxin?

Well the first thing is that it is very unlikely that PVC or polyurethane fumes can cause damage to the neurological system whether that is of an adult (like yourself) or a child. That being said , this is true for LONG TERM neurological damage, in the short term it can cause headaches in individuals who are predisposed to develop migraines or have previous neurological issues as it can cause transient swelling of brain cells leading to a headache. I would like to emphasize that it is a TRANSIENT effect NOT a long term effect, it occurs as long as you are in proximity of the fumes once you leave the proximity, the effects subside with NO long term damage.

It can however cause lung issues more commonly in young children as they are more susceptible to developing attacks of astham especially if they already have allergies.

What exactly is the fume being emitted by PVC or polyurethane?

It is actually composed of a chemical byproduct of polyurethane itself, usually chairs and other substances which use this substance dont emit the fumes however sometimes due to a defect in the manufacturing process it can.

Oh, also - what if the fumes accidentally get heated? If I cook food on a flame in the kitchen, or use the dryer, either way, there would be fumes getting sucked into an extremely high-temperature heat, would that convert it into an even more toxic carcinogen or phosgene-like toxin?

No, heating the fumes would not lead to the development of a more toxic carcinogen but if the chair itself is burned then that can certainly cause production of more toxic fumes.

Do you have any more questions?

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Customer: replied 1 month ago.
Unfortunately, it looks like the fume exposure will be longterm. What can be done?Thank you so much for the help. Could you share the data sources/cites?

Move the chair to an area where there is limited exposure or if you can air it out in the sun for a couple of days. Usually polyurethane wouldnt consistently give off fumes and it would stop after some time.

Study 1

Study 2

Study 3

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