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Photograph of - damaged vinyl siding Chemical, Plastic, Vinyl Odor Diagnosis & Cure FAQs
Questions & answers about the sources & removal of chemical or vinyl plastic smells in buildings

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FAQs, questions & answers about ow to find & cure plastic like odors and smells in buildings & about the effects of exposure to plastic or chemical smells or odors:

This article provides commonly-asked questions about the sources of & cures for plastic or chemical smells in buildings and includes discussions of possible health effects of exposure to such gases or odors or VOCs.

This article series iscusses common odor sources, including indoor plastic odors or chemical smells observed at some installations of vinyl exterior building siding or in other plastic or vinyl building products such as windows and trim. We provide links to articles detailing possible health effects of exposure to indoor VOCs and plastic odors and smells.



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FAQs on Finding, Effects of, & RemovingPlastic or Chemical Odors In buildings

Florida room vinyl products suspected as odor source (C) InspectApedia P.O.D.

These questions & answers about exposure to or issues with chemical or plastic odors were posted originally at VINYL SIDING or WINDOW PLASTIC ODORS - topic home.

On 2017-07-08 by (mod) Husband inhaled vinyl fumes and dust. Now has a temperature and hard to breath.

Jean

You need to take him to your doctor or to the emergency room.

On 2017-07-08 by Jean L.

Husband inhaled vinyl fumes and dust. Now has a temperature and hard to breath. Help!

On 2017-02-14 by (mod) overwhelming smell from vinyl windows in our Florida room

Unfortunately SOME plastics continue to offgas for a very long time. Heat and ventilation can speed the process. Can you leave the windows open and add some fans to increase air circulation?

On 2017-02-14 by Charlie

We had new vinyl windows installed in our Florida room over 1yr. ago and the smell is still overwhelming. When the windows are closed (Which is every night) the smell in the morning is atrocious. We're concerned that this may be a health risk. Any input would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

On 2017-02-03 by Cati

Hello, I live in a split level home and recently I began to smell a strange odor. It smells like some type of chemical, its not over powering, and no one really seems to notice it much except me, it sets off my migraines so I easily pick it up. Its not in any one area or all over the house. I can't pin point the type of odor except to say it Snell's like a vhemical. Help?

On 2016-11-27 by den

Replacement Windows dec.15. Spring warming started odor south side. By July north side Windows also smells like kerosene

On 2016-11-09 by (mod) re: company says plastic odors from their products is not an issue

Anon:

OPINION: Off-gassing from vinyl or plastic window screens isn't a problem for the company rep who does not live in your house; in my OPINION companies are scared to say that they've had complaints about a product, even if they have, because of the worry about inviting litigation or disputes. Unfortunately that litigious worry is well-founded and it can keep consumers from having good access to sound information.

The actual health hazard of offgassing from a plastic window screen remains to be measured: the hazard would depend on what VOCs are off-gassing into your home, the air-concentration level of them, the duration of exposure of the building occupants to the VOCs, and as well, variations in the individual health risks of building occupants.

Improving the house fresh-air can reduce odors and possible risks and may be cheaper than trying to have a scientific study of the level of hazard performed in your home. Look at air-to-air heat exchanger positive ventilation systems. See http://inspectapedia.com/BestPractices/Balanced_Ventilation_Systems.php - VENTILATION, BALANCED and other venting options in that article series.

Here is some US EPA information about possible plastic window screen off-gas hazards: http://inspectapedia.com/sickhouse/Vinyl_Chloride_EPA_Info.php
Note: Vinyl chloride, again depending on exposure, is a carcinogen (ATSDR 2006)

More research citations on chemical exposures from plastics

On 2016-11-08 by Anonymous

We've had window screen fumes from the screens for msny years. When I called the company I was told it wasn't an issue and they never had complaints. Is it a health issue issue!?

On 2016-08-16 by Dan

Hi,

In early June 2016 we had 4 Marvin Integrity Windows put in. They are made of wood and fiberglass. Not sure if the fiberglass has an acrylic capstock, its mention on the web in places.

We noticed a chemical smell in the 2 bedrooms they were put in. The side facing the south and the sun is the strongest, is also a slightly smaller room. The smell is worse on hot, sunny days.

Its been 2 1/2 months and its still smell. I've been trying to deal with the window people but they have never heard of the issue and Marvin says its just a new smell, no harmful VOC.

Any advice? Wash them in clorox? Remove them? I've been patient waiting for them to gas off but I fear they're not going. The smaller room will be a nursery soon. I appreciate any advice!

Thanks,

Dan

On 2016-08-02 by Anonymous

You might try spraying with a lacquer primer sealer, then painting.

On 2016-08-02 by Tammy

I bought some mid century tub chairs made from molded plastic - I absolutely love the look of the chairs but I can't use them because they stink of BO. The surface is scuffed and it is hard to tell if someone has tried to paint them or the plastic itself is deteriorating (I can provide pics). I'm wondering if the smell is from the plastic breaking down and if so is this fixable? Is there a way to safely re-seal them? Is the odor likely to be harmful?

On 2016-07-21 by (mod) re: sensitivity to odors varies

Not everyone has the same sense of smell, nor is an installer without his or her own conflicting interests.

Some plastics offgas when new, then calm down, while others remain a persistent odor source; if the latter, unfortunately the solution is usually replacement.

On 2016-07-20 by Tony

Recently had upvc interior boarding fitted to underside of our South facing glass roofed conservatory. After 3-4 weeks , and hot weather, there is a strong plastic smell during daytime. Installer inspected, could not detect smell!, but we are not given to imagining it. Has anyone else experienced this and if so is there any known cure or will it go with time?

Question: Trace down [chemical plastic] odors from roof on hot summer days

I had a new roof and gutter system installed a year and a half ago. Most of the roof is asphalt single and a section of the roof is torch on. On hot summer days in the evening when the weather cools down a tar type odor appears in the front of the house. This is where most of the torch on resides.

A new gutter system was also installed at the same time in that same area - it is u-shaped and the corners are sealed with what appears to be a white caulking. This odor has been ongoing since the roof/gutter system was installed and wasn't present before the installation. No one can figure out what this is happening. Any ideas? - Carmine M.

Reply:

Carmine we wouldn't expect a torch-down roof system to smell like plastic but you might indeed smell bituminous product VOC outgassing from flashings, flashing cement, or the runout or even the bituminous material itself, such as modified bitumen roofing material.

If the odor is plastic-like, I wonder if you've installed vinyl or plastic gutters and leaders?

If the odor is from roofing materials themselves (other than plastic roofing, that is) the outgassing should diminish as the roof system cures in sun over the summer.

If the odor is coming from plastic or vinyl building materials, sometimes those sources can be quite long lasting.

Question: Chemical plastic odor from plastic pet door

How can I eliminate the chemical odor coming from our new Pet SAFE dog door? I've tried vinegar and water and soap. It seems to be the plastic flaps. Our dog won't even use it!!! Please advise. Thank you. - Anonymous by private email 2016/07/05

Reply:

I would replace the door; some plastics emit odors but the odor emission rate declines rapidly while others, depending on the chemical composition, are persistent.

Question: Mysterious plastic related odor when sun hits side of home, headaches, nausea

We are trying to sort out a mysterious odor that we think is "plastic related", but not sure. A strong industrial-plastic like smell only
noticeable when sun bearing down on southwest side of home, enough to give us a headache and nausea, occasionally. Lasts only about 90 minutes when at peak.

Localized to one room with interior wall about 18 ft from exterior wall. No where else in house. We think it might be window shades, but hard to believe as odor seems to disappear when blinds are up (recent revelation). We had oil tank removed nearby room about 24 months w/professional contractor with negative soil samples. No oil smell detected ever. Also, localized mold remediation project adjacent room and professionally cleaned up. Need some help?? - Tom

Reply: things to check

Tom

We have had quite a few cases in which plastic odors in buildings were traced to a material that was being heated by the sun (or by other heat sources). Your linking of the odor to sun exposure and time of day is a helpful clue in this regard. Some components reported to give strong plastic odor outgassing when heated (including just by sun exposure) include

Plastic framed window sashes and jambs
Plastic window screens
Plastic interior window shades
Some vinyl siding and trim products
Plastic interior or exterior trim

Heating oil smell is for most people very distinctively different from plastic odors.

Try removing the suspect window shades for a week and let us know what you find. What you learn will help other readers.

Question: Comment on wet plastic odors

Everyone is worried about the smell of the windows in the sun, but they should also be concerned about what vinyl windows smell like when it is damp: you shower, run your stove, etc. Plastic smells when it is wet!! I have double glazed vinyl windows that were installed in a 1950's walk up (in the past 5 years before I moved in).

Everything in this apartment is old - the outside is 1950's stucco (not painted for years), the inside is lathe & plaster (painted with no VOC paint). The floors are the original strip oak floors. We have only wood furniture, cotton futon couch, a 40 year old stove, and a very expensive (not smelly) small fridge that we located well away from the windows.

And yet the B.O. smell coming from these windows fills up the apartment, due to any MOISTURE that accumulates on them, even in the summer. It is especially bad right now since it is in the minus temps, ie. when you wake up there is moisture all over the windows. As soon as you wipe off the moisture, run a dehumidifier, open the window, and pump up the heat - the smell goes away.

Everyone else in our building uses excessive amounts of cheap perfume to cover this up. But I think people should be aware before installing that this could happen to you. Everyone who has visited our apt has commented on it. And ironically enough, these windows don't smell in hot summer (but then again we don't get direct sunlight on them). They are great windows for keeping clean, and blocking out sound. But yes, they are smelly, 24-7. - Molly

Reply:

Thanks for the comment, Molly. We have not had reports nor tracked down plastic odors to wet conditions. I'd look carefully to be sure there are not other water or leak related odor sources including some molds that can produce odd smells in buildings.

Question: Metallic odor from window screens - what is that odor?

I moved into an apartment and removed the window screens for cleaning, which I did with dish soap and warm water in the tub. Afterwards, however, they emitted a metallic odor, without stop. I tried encasing them in huge plastic bags to contain the smell, with limited success. What on earth is this smell? - Mark W. Sherman 12/12/2011

P.S. The screens themselves are not metallic -- the material is more loose or flexible to the touch than that.

Reply:

Mark:

There are several plastic mesh materials used in window screens that produce plastic like odors when they are heated by the sun or by heat from other sources. The odor appears to depend on the chemical composition of the particular batch of screening produced by some manufacturers. Reports to us by readers suggest that these odors may be persistent in hot sunny conditions even years after the screens were installed. If you track the odor to that source and it's bothersome you may want to try replacing the screen material.

Question: what is the remedy for chemical odors from HVAC ducts

what is the remedy for ducts that emit a strong chemical odor when the heat first comes on? Also notice it when coming in from outside even after it's been on awhile. Or maybe it's the blown-in cellulose insulation? - Susan 12/23/11

Reply:

Susan: re "odors when heat first comes on" there are several possible explanations, including flue gases that leak out of a draft regulator before a good draft is established, leaks into the ductwork that produce odors that later are diluted by circulating air, or some other source.

Blown in cellulose insulation does not usually continue to emit odors after installation, and from the information in your question alone, we haven't got data suggesting that somehow odors from building insulation (say contaminated by something) would be picked up by the HVAC system.

Question: Metallic smell in new apartment kitchen in old building - fresh paint? Sun exposure?

We noticed in the fall a distinctly "metallic" smell in our new apartment, specifically the kitchen. This is an old building but the apartment was painted and new flooring installed before we moved in. There were some plumbing issues that we attributed to the smell, as it went away after the plumbing was fixed. However, we are now thinking the plumbing had nothing to do with it and it was just timing.

We had no smell ALL winter, but now it is back on warmer days (above 15 degrees C) and if the sun is out. It is only in our kitchen, which gets the sunlight throughout the day. I have checked all appliances and the exhaust fan, as well as the sink, and cannot pinpoint the smell to anything other than that room. I'm beginning to think it is related to sun/temp. We have blinds that are always up, and windows that are less than 5 years old.

It is a brick building. I have no idea what it could be but it is a terrible smell, and worse - the landlords believe it is our fault and are nagging us to clean it up. Our apartment is clean, i have scrubbed every possible surface in an attempt to get rid of the odor. It is not something we are causing, it must be related to the building somehow. Help! - Jamie 4/14/2012

Reply:

Jamie,

Use a helper who has a good sense of smell and see if she agrees that sun is warming the windows or window screens causing an outgassing from the plastic. Keep us posted.

Question: smell from plastic bags?

We have a constant chemical smell in our home. It is really noticeable when I leave the house, the smell is on my hair and clothing. It seems to attach it self strongly to plastic bags. We live on a golf course, could tat have something to do with it? - Jules 6/3/12

Reply:

Four months ago, a vinyl floor covering was installed in my computer room and bedroom. IN those two rooms, the smell is very plastic chemical smelling. Not everyone can smell it but I can.. When there is heat in those two rooms, the smell intensifies. My throat is constantly feeling as though it is burning, my lips, my tongue, the membranes of my nose burn and are so dry. my chest feels weighted down. I have washed the floor with every imaginable solution that has been suggested of found on internet. I have air purifiers running, the one in the computer room has a 3 light indicator,states the degree of odor present, when there is an odour present. Short of removing the flooring I don't know what to do.

Question: vinyl floor covering smells very plastic chemical, burning lips, tongue, throat

Four months ago, a vinyl floor covering was installed in my computer room and bedroom. IN those two rooms, the smell is very plastic chemical smelling. Not everyone can smell it but I can.

When there is heat in those two rooms, the smell intensifies. My throat is constantly feeling as though it is burning, my lips, my tongue, the membranes of my nose burn and are so dry. my chest feels weighted down. I have washed the floor with every imaginable solution that has been suggested of found on internet. I have air purifiers running, the one in the computer room has a 3 light indicator,states the degree of odor present, when there is an odour present. Short of removing the flooring I don't know what to do. - Edith 6/10/12

Reply:

Edith:

Portable "air purifiers" are an ineffective band-aid for a persistent contaminant - the effective approach is to find and remove or correct the source of the trouble.

If you're sure the odor source is the floor, you'd suspect either an adhesive that was used and is releasing VOCs, or the vinyl itself. Usually a combination of heat, passage of time, and fresh air ventilation cure that problem. If not, one might wonder if the particular flooring you installed might have to be removed and replaced. Weather permitting, start by improving fresh air ventilation in the area.

Question: Plastic odor from PVC deck in sunlight drives us crazy - will the odor go away

We had a cellular PVC deck installed about 6 weeks ago. I can't believe how much of an odor it has when it is in the sun. I can smell it inside the house if the windows are open and it is driving me crazy. As time goes on will this go away? I'm so disappointed. I did a lot of research and didn't come across anything about this in my research and still can't. Any suggestions? - Beth 7/29/12

Reply:

Beth, sorry to hear about the PVC deck smell complaint - it's not one we've heard reported here before.

Usually but not always, plastic odors dissipate with time, heat, sun exposure.

If you can find out for us the product name and its manufacturer we'll do some further research.

Follow-up:

Thank you for your response. It is Timber Tech XLM series. One of their reps told me over the phone that the smell should improve with time but could possibly be detected faintly when warm out--always. I did a lot of reading before choosing this deck material and it seems that the trend now is moving from composite to all PVC or capstock (composite--capped with a PVC layer).

I haven't read a thing anywhere about complaints of the odor--just surprises me as it is quite strong. I don't notice anything when it is not being heated up by the sun, so I hope that with time it will improve. I have read that sun speeds up the off gassing process. I guess I just wonder how long this might take and if it will eventually lose the smell completely.

Reply:

Beth thanks for the follow-up. The information will help other readers, and we must appreciate the candor and honesty of the Timber Tech rep. I've got no experience with this particular odor problem, so we'll indeed want to hear how much the odor complaint diminishes over time.

In the case of other plastics and synthetics such as vinyl windows, our experience and reader reports show that odors from some products diminish to below notice, often in a few months, while a few products "smell" apparently for as long as the material is present. Chemistry of the individual materials seems to be key.

In our experience, for people who are sensitive to odors, the smell may never go away completely.

Also if the product accepts a sealant or stain (which themselves will have some odors) you may have some success by coating all surfaces.

Question: window screens smell when the sun hits them

I have a problem with my window screens smelling when the sun hits them - how can I remedy this? Is there a non toxic screen material that I can re - line the screens with? Thanks! - Jessica 9/7/2012

Reply:

Jessica, you can try replacing the plastic or fiberglass screens with a metal screen material; both galvanized wire and copper wire are available.

Question: severe dizziness & vomiting reported following exposure to plastic / vinyl odor

I have been working hard for long hours outside my aunt's house in New Jersey. Friday Aug. 3 I woke up after a long day of work Thursday. I woke up at 7AM in a 9' x 18' porch of vinyl windows to a sunny morning but a strong plastic odor. Throughout the house my aunt's windows smell of plastic.

I was dizzy and began vomiting and by 8AM I had been transported by ambulance to Overlook Hospital. My body temperature was at 94 but it had been a clear night and the outdoor temp. had dropped and I slept next to an open window with a slow ceiling fan near me but the doctor has asked about carbon monoxide, a furnace pipe, and at that hour and day only a properly venting hot water heater would have been running. I'll check the hospital's blood tests for vinyl chloride other plastic contaminants. Thank you very much. - R. Craig 9/14/2012

Reply:

R Craig

Thank you for this important field report about suspected health response to plastic odors. I can confirm from personal experience that dizziness and nausea can definitely ensue from exposure to fumes from a variety of plastic products. Years ago while putting down 6-mil poly over dirt in a tight crawl space I knew from the get go that the plastic I was unrolling smelled awful. Stupidly wearing no respiratory protection I figured I'd just tough it out and get the job done.

Before I could finish I was so dizzy and nauseous it was all I could do to crawl out of the area and lie on the ground in fresh air until I felt better - it took more than an hour to begin to feel OK.

Watch out: I have collected in-depth and authoritative information on exposure to VOCs, plastic odors, and PVC or polyvinyl chloride gases, and I've made sure those links are in view on these pages - at the "More Reading" links at the bottom of this article please take a look at the articles organized under

VINYL CHLORIDE HEALTH INFO

There you'll also find details on Inhalation Exposure to Vinyl Chloride, and Health Effects of Exposure to "Plastic or Vinyl" Odors,useful patient information sheet that you should give to your doctor.

This pdf file may also be helpful: Vinyl Chloride Exposure Questionnaire

I completely agree with a physician who figures first to make sure there is no CO carbon monoxide gas hazard in the building as that can be quickly fatal to anyone. But indeed plastic odors and gases can be a concern as well.

Please keep me posted - what we learn will doubtless help other readers

Daniel - Editor.

Question: how to get rid of lingering fumes & odors from vinyl sheet flooring

I am at a loss as to how to remedy a residential indoor air quality issue. Three months ago, we purchased a house built in 2000, and replaced 1000 sq ft of vinyl sheet flooring with porcelain tile. While removing the sheet vinyl from the concrete floor, an extremely strong chemical odor was continuously emitted. It was several weeks (and the house was closed up) before the adhesive glue was “scraped off” and porcelain tile was laid.

No solvents or water were used to remove the adhesive and the floors were not grinded. Thus, the floors were scraped relatively smooth, but much of the adhesive was still embedded in the concrete when the thinset was spread and the tile put down and grouted. It has now been six weeks since the tile work for the entire house (2100 sf) has been completed. Although somewhat lessened, the odor (from the adhesive glue?) that was present when the vinyl was initially removed is still very noticeable, and is strong enough to cause difficulty breathing.

This surprised me because I was told the tile would seal any odors from the concrete. I don't know the specific compounds in the vinyl glue adhesive made in 2000 (ie how much formaldehyde, etc), how long it might take to off gas, and whether the drywall has absorbed the fumes during the time the vinyl/adhesive was off gassing. (We did paint the walls with zero VOC Benjamin Moore /Sherwin Williams paint after the tile work was completed). In the meantime, we have been opening up the house everyday for 4-5 hours, which helps until a day goes by when the house is closed up.

Then the odor is as strong as ever. We have thus far been unable to occupy the house. Can you provide any direction/suggestions? Thank you in advance for your help. - J.B. 12/15/12

Reply:

A competent onsite inspection by an expert usually finds additional clues that help accurately diagnose a problem with odors, such as another apparent odor source or pathway, or something that is unfamiliar to building occupants but that may be useful.  That said, here are some things to consider - keeping in mind that from no onsite inspection the following is speculation in an effort to be helpful:

In my experience, and similar to your own expectation, porcelain tile and grout, although not 100% impervious to gases and odors, are nearly-so and so would not be expected to pass much odors from prior vinyl flooring tile mastic up through the new floor covering into the room.

Therefore I suspect that there is another odor source. Since you recognize the odor in the area as the same as that emitted when you were removing the old vinyl floor covering, I speculate that VOCs from that procedure may have penetrated other building materials and surfaces, such as drywall, ceiling tiles, &c. that in turn re-emit those gases slowly back into the room.

I have found other examples of lingering odors from building materials that appear intact but that have been either chemically changed or have absorbed gases from an original source (such as following inappropriate use of ozone in buildings)

I am not confident that having coated the walls with the paint you describe would necessarily serve as an odor sealant;

You do not mention what is on the room's ceiling, another possible odor reservoir, nor any furnishings, curtains, etc. that may have been affected by the original odors you describe.

I think that opening and ventilating the building helps, so would turning up the heat and using fans to exhaust heated air - wasting energy for a while but perhaps speeding the odor reduction.

But before spending on any more heroic or extreme attacks on this odor problem why don't you try our odor track-down smell patch test procedure (SMELL PATCH TEST to FIND ODOR SOURCE) to see if you can narrow down an odor source to walls, ceilings, furnishings. That might in turn suggest further steps. For example there are special odor-sealing paints and coatings used to paint building framing or walls following a fire, to control post-fire smoke and burn odors. Those coatings in turn can be re-coated with the desired surface finish paint

Question: vinyl siding plastic odors when neighbor uses barbecue

I have a question after viewing your website. I live in a 4th floor condo and keep getting a burning plastic smell in my master bedroom. It smells awful and usually forces me from the room for hours (it's also my home office). On the other side of my bedroom wall is the balcony of the neighboring suite. That balcony is somewhat "recessed" in that my bedroom actually juts out from the building another 20 or so feet (eg like an "L" with the balcony in the corner). Also, there are NO windows along the entire length of wall adjoining this other suite/balcony.

After 6 months of trying to eliminate all other possible sources, I now believe the smell is coming from the barbeque on the balcony of my neighbor one floor down. The last two times it happened (before tonight), I went down and they confirmed they were barbequing. It happened again tonight but I called the fire department instead so I could confirm that this is not something that should be happening (and a possible health/fire hazard). Two of the firemen said they smelled something as soon as they entered the room. One said it was like a burning plastic smell. But they couldn't identify where the smell was coming from and when I said I was sure it was the barbeque one floor below they basically told me that was impossible.

My question is this - if my neighbor is barbequing on their balcony and the barbeque is positioned too close to the vinyl siding, would it be possible for me to smell melting siding inside?

Thanks for any assistance you can provide (or anyone else you can refer me to - C.P. 8/26/2013

Reply: vinyl siding offgassing & other hazards

A competent onsite inspection by an expert usually finds additional clues that would permit a more accurate, complete, and authoritative answer than we can give by email alone. That said I offer these comments:

Vinyl siding, when heated can give off a distinct plastic odor.

Using a cooking or other heating device close (probably less than 36") to vinyl siding can cause it to deform, melt, and possibly catch fire. Also there might be hazards associated with offgassing of heated vinyl. (See VINYL CHLORIDE HEALTH INFO and also PLASTIC or VINYL ODOR EXPOSURE)

If the neighbor you describe is using a barbecue too close to vinyl siding on e would probably see deformed siding there. Keep in mind that sunlight or other heat sources can also cause vinyl odors and that similar odors can be emitted from other vinyls or plastics on buildings such as windows or screens. Correlating the occurrence of the odor to events (cooking, sunlight, other events) can be key in diagnosis of the odor source.

Watch out: plastic odors can also be traced to overheating electrical components, wiring, devices, and thus there could be a risk of an electrical fire where such odors are reported. Be sure that anyone investigating the odor complaint you describe considers this and other fire or electrical hazards too.

Question: how can I find someone to diagnose chemical smells in my Florida home?

Who can I call to help me find a chemical must smell in Sarasota FL? - D.W. 1/15/2014

Reply:

Depending on the nature of the odor and its possible sources, you might find success with a home inspector who is familiar with odor tracking and indoor environmental issues - the advantage of a broad-scope-experienced inspector is that s/he may recognize conditions and building air movement, mechanical problem issues etc. that an industrial hygienist, lacking building science expertise, may miss. On the other hand, hygienists and other indoor air quality or indoor environmental experts have expertise in chemical contaminants and testing.

Directories of such experts at InspectApedia are found beginning at
BUILDING & HOME INSPECTORS, U.S. -
and
MOLD & ENVIRONMENTAL INSPECTORS (since you describe the smell as "chemical must" and I interpret "musty" odors to be moldy smells.

Also, the more you can inform yourself about good procedures for tracking down odor sources the better you can judge the experience, competence, and approach of someone you are hiring.

Question: Plastic or chemical odors: awful odor coming from a new sliding screen door; washed, hosed down, odors continue; chemical smells only when the windows are open?

Help! Just installed a new screen sliding door and the smell is awful! Sprayed it with Simple Green and hosed it down and the "plastic" odor is still not tolerable. Any suggestions?

We just installed a new plastic/vinyl screen door and the smell from it is unbearable. We tried spraying it with Simple Green but it didn't help and the smell is overpowering now. What can we do to get rid of this stink other than returning the door? - Ruth 10/24/11 [paraphrased - Ed.]

New construction home (1yr), has a gas like/chemical smell that collects in certain areas of the house only when the windows are open ??? Pretty sure it's not natural gas. When we close windows it goes away.
Did not notice the smell in the first 6 months. Any ideas ?? - Jason 3/18/12

There is a very strong smell that comes from the corner of our sunroom as soon as it warms up. I think it is stronger when it rains. It's never there during winter. It is so strong you can smell it in the living room. My husband took off the siding and found no mold. I think it smells kinda like mold though. It is so strong it gives me a headache. How can I find out what it is and how to get rid of it? - Jennifer 3/27/12

Reply: check for plastic window or screen odors when some products are heated by sunlight

Ruth & Jason & Jennifer

Some plastic windows or window or door screens can exude a chemical odor, particularly when heated by the sun. You can often track down this chemical-like odor by observing that odors are strongest on the sunlit side of the home and during time when sun is cooking those surfaces.

Some plastic and vinyl building products including windows, doors, and some sidings and trim, outgas a plastic-like odor, especially when new, and in some cases even when not new. But most of these odors dissipate pretty quickly over just a few weeks, and faster if the item, such as your new screen door are exposed to warmth of sunlight.

Question: Smell coming from aluminium window of a newly built home

I have searched your website and can't come up with a solution to an Odor problem we are experiencing in the main bedroom of our newly built home.

The Odor is coming from the aluminium window and seems to be worse in the morning when the sun hits it. We do not have rubber backing curtains that could be the cause. It smells a little like a strong urine smell and when I did the sniff test all around the window, it seems to be the rubber strips/seals that have the Odor, and the sun is making it come out into the whole room and just outside the door. I checked outside and it's not coming from there. It's a new window in a new house and it's the only one with this problem. I suffer asthma/allergies and this smell in my room is making me worse. I am concerned that it is a toxic gas or something coming from the rubber but how will I know if this is the case?

Can you please help at all? What can I do about this problem?

Thankyou! - C.C. 12/2/2014

Reply

[by email]
I'd try a sniff test of non-metallic parts: gaskets and also perhaps a plastic window screen that may be installed. Chances are greater that the odors are coming from plastic or vinyl components than from anything aluminum unless that metal was coated with something.

Question: odor persists after spray of an encapsulant in the crawl area

(July 17, 2014) Jeff W said:
Had my 1950's crawlspace encapsulated in the Fall with thick mil plastic vapor barrier. No real strong odor. Now w in warm weather we are smelling a strong cat urine type odor in our house coming from the crawl. We have a dehu in basement and it is nice and dry but odor is strong. I paid a lot to encapsulate and did so to remediate some mold we found due to a pipe breaking. Anyhow, short of taking up vapor barrier which I hate to do, is there any remedy for the odor? Nothing I have tried has worked at all - no odor removal spray or odor neutralizers have an effect. Thanks!

Reply:

Jeff,
It may take months or longer for an odor from the plastic itself to dissipate. If you are sure the odor is from the plastic (sniff test) short of removing it, you might try power venting to outdoors to reduce odor movement to the building interior, keeping the crawl at negative air pressure compared to the house above.

Heat both increases the odor outgassing and speeds it's dissipation. Adding fresh air ventilation temporarily (as we don't like to keep doing this in a crawl space because of risk of condensation and moisture trouble) can speed the odor outgassing.

Question: installed a radon fan to dissipate odors in a crawl area

(Oct 2, 2014) Doug P said:
We have the identical odor problem. We have fans installed for radon removal, not a problem, to help remove the odor and still have the odor problem. Have you had any success in eliminating your odor, if so how.

Reply:

If the fan is sufficient to keep the crawl area at negative air pressure with respect to the home then odors should not be moving from crawl area to occupied space. But most radon mitigation fans operate at a quite low CFM flow rate. That may be your trouble.

Question: using an air purifier to get rid of odors from new vinyl windows - making me dizzy

(June 30, 2015) Christa said:
Hi, I just had brand new vinyl windows installed and my breathing feels labored and I feel dizzy. I had no idea that vinyl windows could have this effect on me. I have my new windows open and am sleeping downstairs but I don't know what to do. I have an air purifer going and I don't feel well. Can you please help me figure out what to do?

Thank you!
Christa

Reply:

No residential portable air purifier will remove all of an odor, particulate or other contamiant any more than holding a vacuum cleaner wand in the air in the kitchen can remove dust from below the living room couch. The best approach is to remove the odor source. In your case that cost may be prohibitive. So what's next? If weather permits, increased fresh air circulation (including use of fans), and increased temperatures (sunlight helps) can speed the offgassing of new plastic materials.

Usually vinyl odor offgassing diminishes over a few weeks to months for window and siding products but not always. Unfortunately, depending on the composition of the specific vinyl windows you installed, the odor may persist for some time or be worst on sides of the home exposed to sun.

Question: odors possibly traced to carpet or to vinyl carpet protector

(July 31, 2015) Elaine July 31/15 said:
Our house is 15 years old. We bought it 6 years ago. About 3 months ago I renovated a room, changing it from an office to a family room. I had it professionally painted with Natura, a Benjamin Moore product that I have used before and really like, as it has absolutely no smell or VOCs. After a week or so I was about to call the painter and ask how long before it would stop smelling, although having painted the new office myself with the same paint - a room with no ventilation - I had smelled virtually nothing.

With that nagging doubt I started looking further and traced it to this. Because the room is carpeted,we bought a vinyl carpet-protector for the area around my husband's desk. It stayed on the carpet for 6 years. I removed it to change the room's usage, and got rid of it since the new office has lino. But the carpet exactly in that 4X6 area is impregnated with a very strong vinyl smell. After a couple of months of sprinkling baking soda (which reduces the odor until vacuumed off), keeping the window open, and now steam cleaning the area with vinegar, it is still the same. I am very sensitive to smells, always the first to smell anything, and everyone else can live with it but I just can't stand it, and sometimes get a mild toxic headache when I'm in the room. I don't use air fresheners and such, as I'm sure they simply mask toxins that may be harmful, to say nothing of what they themselves give off

The carpet is in excellent condition and replacing it is not in our budget for a long time to come. This seems like a chemical reaction between the vinyl mat and the synthetic fibers of the carpet. Any ideas? Thanks kindly!

Reply:

Thanks for the interesting question, Elaine.

I'm not sure if the carpet odor in the area of the plastic carpet protector was due to offgassing from the protector itself, or if the protector prevented the carpet or carpet padding itself from offgassing since new, or perhaps alternatively if the protector might have trapped moisture in that area.

Often a temporary increase in heat and humidity can help speed material offgassing indoors, just be careful not to leave the room so hot and moist that you generate a mold problem. Fresh air ventilation after that treatment may also help, weather permitting.

Question: odor from plastic trim in a plastic toy - 18-wheeler - looks like wood, smells bad.

(Aug 13, 2015) Patricia Blair said:
My sons 18 wheel truck has plastic that looks like wood. It is all over the place as trim. The smell coming out of it is just terrible and sickening. How do I get rid of the odor
for him so he does not git sick.

Reply:

Why not put the bad-smelling plastic truck in the trash?

Question: odor from stain resistant carpeting

(Sept 2, 2015) monica brooks said:
stain resistant carpet still emitting strong chemical smell (not like new carpet smell) after five years- most noticeable when coming back from holidays and all windows have been closed
Is it the stainfree finish that is causing this?
thanks

Reply:

You may need to replace the carpet or separate padding; first confirm the source of the smell using the smell test procedure we describe
at SMELL PATCH TEST to FIND ODOR SOURCE

Question: chemical smell from floor

(Sept 22, 2015) maliha said:
It has been 6 months that half of my first floor smells like chemical i can even Taste the air and tastes like some kind of poison or chemical. I searched everything but can't find the source. It gets worst when out side is hot. It's only in the kitchen and family room. Gives me alot of headache. Anyone knows how i can find out? Thanks a million.

Reply:

You don't identify the flooring material; if it's new carpet or resilient flooring try using heat and ventilation to speed the new-material off-gassing.

Also check for odors coming from plastic windows, screens or siding on the hot, sunny side of the home.

See SMELL PATCH TEST to FIND ODOR SOURCE

Question: odors from acrylic windows on patio

(Oct 27, 2015) Esther said:
I had acrylic windows put on my patio more than a month ago. We left them open for more than a month. We closed it on Saturday came home and went out there. The odor was so strong that we had to go back inside.
I have had two boughts of chest colds.
I called the owner and he is sending someone to paint over the sealant. Do you think this will work.
He claims its not toxic material. What can I do? Please help with some answer

Reply:

Esther as we noted for some other readers, Usually vinyl odor offgassing diminishes over a few weeks to months for window and siding products but not always. Unfortunately, depending on the composition of the specific vinyl windows you installed, the odor may persist for some time or be worst on sides of the home exposed to sun.

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Continue reading at VINYL SIDING or WINDOW PLASTIC ODORS - home, or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.

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Or see VOCs VOLATILE ORGANIC COMPOUNDS

Or see SMELL PATCH TEST to FIND ODOR SOURCE

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CHEMICAL or PLASTIC ODOR FAQs at InspectApedia.com - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.

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