I am chemically sensitive and the paint my landlord used in the kitchen is making me sick. What to do?

Asked by Joy A Held
New York, NY

I am chemically sensitive. My landlord plastered the kitchen. The plaster reeked for four days, making me sick enough to vacate the apartment. A week later, the landlord primed with BIN shellac primer, one coat, waited 2 hours, then painted over the primer with one coat of Benjamin Moore latex in china white. The kitchen has been offgassing for 3 months despite ventilation. Help -- I can't live here. What to do?


Bill Bradbury

Answered by Bill Bradbury

Smithfield, UT

Envirocon Home Restoration

July 21, 2011

We, as occupants of this beautiful planet, put up with a lot from our chemical-spewing brethren, but we should never have to put up with it in our homes, even if someone else's name is on the mortgage.

I recommend that you seal again with multiple coats of shellac. Shellac is completely organic and inert once it dries in about 1 hour. This should seal the wall.

Then top the shellac with a good clay plaster. Clay is a great purifier and can also help to regulate indoor humidity.

The shellac is dissolved in alcohol, so this may not be something you can apply yourself, but once that is dry, clay is actually good for you. So grab a trowel and get dirty. When the surface is leathery, use a large wet sponge to rub out the imperfections. If you dig a hole, fill it with more clay.

I don't seal my clay walls -- they are more easily damaged that way, but very easily repaired.

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