Health and Eco Information

The Importance of using non-toxic finishes

Timber is a living material endowed with many beneficial assets. It is durable and helps keep room temperature constant, regulates humidity. It creates a natural ambience to transform your home into a comfortable, healthy living space.

What is in timber coatings?

Timbers coatings contain two components:

  • The active components that form the coating on the timber
  •  An easily evaporating solvent in which the active component is dissolved.

When the coating is applied, the solvent evaporates into the air in the immediate environment, thus leaving the active components to react and form the harder coating on your timber (to ‘cure’).

What is toxicity?

Even though the cured coating may be innocuous, the process of coating your timber presents a number of opportunities to generate compounds that may be toxic to people, your pets or the wider environment:

  • The solvents that evaporate into the air
  • The by-products that are formed during the curing process
  •  The active components that ultimately form the coating.


Polyurethanes  

Solvent-based polyurethane is the most widely used timber floor-finishing product currently used in Australia. Solvents used in their production contain isocyanates which are extremely toxic to both humans and animals. Whittle Waxes products do not contain polyurethanes and are manufactured from natural components. February 2008

Solvent Overview

 The subject of solvents in coatings is massive. The European Directive 2004/42/EC, is a document 333 pages long, and deals with the classification of “Coatings used in Buildings”, the present regulations governing all aspects of the coatings, application and suitability of purpose.

From our point of view there is only one solvent that is environmentally safe: Water. There are a number of chemicals which dilute in water (like Glycol or Isopropanol). Be aware of water dilute-able coatings and oils as they may contain solvents. Water-based solvent free coatings are preferable to water dilute-able coatings as these may contain solvents.

Another type of solvent is the organic solvents, which are not mixable with water. Generally these can be divided into those derived from petroleum and those derived from renewable plant sources.

Petroleum Derived

The most critical solvents from this group are the rapidly evaporating aromatic solvents.

These can then be divided on the basis of evaporation and flash point: a low flash point means fast evaporation, which is good for drying but dangerous for use, the solvent is highly inflammable. During application the solvent evaporates quickly, resulting in inhalation. 

*Solvents are also available which are free of aromatic compounds

Plant Derived

(e.g. Orange-Terpene, Lemon-Terpene, Balsam-Terpene)
From an ecological aspect these solvents are CO2 neutral because they are derived from plants. They can have a strong toxicological impact and have been linked to asthma and neurodermatitis. And of course they have the same greenhouse effects as organic solvents from petroleum.

The products we endorse use aromatic-free isoaliphatic solvents with a high flash point. There is no risk during application of igniting the product and the solvent evaporates slowly so inhalation is reduced during application. We believe that they are preferable to plant derived terpenes.

Isoparrafins belong to the isoaliphatic solvents. They are not ecological perfect but the best you can get if you have to use solvents.

"75 evacuated from office building" – 24 May 2006

Article published by www.heraldsun.com.au

“SEVENTY-five people were evacuated from a Sydney CBD building after fumes from a timber solvent overcame a third of them. Authorities said about 25 of the workers evacuated from the building on the corner of George Street and Martin Place about 4.30pm (AEST) were treated at the scene by ambulance officers after suffering nausea and vomiting.

A New South Wales Fire Brigades spokesman said the fumes originated from a polyurethane solvent that was being applied to timber on the third floor. The fumes spread throughout the four-storey building, causing workers to feel ill. Hazardous material workers were at the scene and would determine when the building was safe to re-enter.

Here is what floor polishers have to say about solvent-based polyurethane.

”I have seven guys working for me, so it’s an OH&S issue and a major health concern for me and my guys. If someone wants to use solvent-based polyurethane on their floors, I’ll walk away rather than do the job. You get smashed off your head. High as a kite. It increases your heart rate. Your body temperature goes up. Your nose runs and your eyes water. Breathing is difficult and you can't drive after using it.”
Bob Morris

 



TIMBER FLOOR FINISHES
    COMPARISON CHART                                                                    

Solvent-based    Polyurethane  

Water-based Polyurethane                          

Tung Oil Modified Polyurethane  

Treatex Hard Wax                    

Highly toxic & a known carcinogen

 Whittle Waxes

 

Whittle Waxes 

 

Non-toxic

 

Whittle Waxes 

 

Whittle Waxes 

Non-toxic & made from sustainable, natural raw materials

 

 

 

 Whittle Waxes

Forms a plastic-like skin on the surface 

Whittle Waxes 

 Whittle Waxes

 Whittle Waxes

 

Forms an lustrous, natural, silky finish that penetrates & nurtures timbers

 

 

 

 Whittle Waxes

Will scratch over time, if not looked after

Whittle Waxes 

 Whittle Waxes

Whittle Waxes 

Whittle Waxes 

Prone to cracking & peeling. Once skin is broken then moisture can cause discolouration of timber

 Whittle Waxes

Whittle Waxes 

Whittle Waxes 

 

Will not crack or peel if applied correctly. Wax forms a protective water-proof barrier that penetrates timber to prevent discolouration & rot

 

 

 

Whittle Waxes 

Will yellow over time 

Whittle Waxes 

 

Whittle Waxes 

 

Can leave timber looking milky

 

 Whittle Waxes

 

 

Non-yellowing & enhances the natural colour & feature in the timber

 

 

 

Whittle Waxes 

Static in application & finish & attracts dust

 Whittle Waxes

 

Whittle Waxes 

 

Non-static in application & finish & does not attract dust

 

 

 

Whittle Waxes 

Does not allow timber to breathe 

Whittle Waxes 

Whittle Waxes 

Whittle Waxes 

 

Allows timber to breathe & move seasonally

 

 

 

Whittle Waxes 

 Is not easily repairable

 Whittle Waxes

Whittle Waxes 

Whittle Waxes 

 

Successfully repairable & will not de-laminate or peel depending on type of damage

 

 

 

 Whittle Waxes

Product manufacturing & disposal of waste material after re-sanding harmful to the environment

Whittle Waxes 

Whittle Waxes 

Whittle Waxes 

 

Non-toxic but also non-biodegradable waste after re-sanding

 

Whittle Waxes 

 

 

Environmentally friendly manufacturing & safe disposal of used wax after re-sanding

 

 

 

Whittle Waxes 

Re-sanding & re-coating results in loss of thickness of timber of approximately 2mm

 Whittle Waxes

Whittle Waxes 

Whittle Waxes 

 

Re-sanding & re-coating results in no loss of thickness of timber

 

 

 

Whittle Waxes 

Whittle Waxes supplies a comprehensive range of eco-friendly natural waxes for interior and exterior timber applications.