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Research Center

Wood Stain Risks for Pregnant Mothers and Infants



I stained the wood floors in my home and left all of the windows open and had the fans going for 24 hours before I let my wife who is 3 months pregnant come back into our house. You could still smell some of the stain. Are those fumes still harmful to are baby?


Wood stains are composed largely of a group of chemicals known as solvents. However, the exact solvents within a wood stain may vary by the type of stain and brand of stain. The following information is about being exposed to solvents in general.

Research studies have shown a possible connection between exposure to solvents and neurological problems or birth defects of the central nervous system (CNS) and face such as a cleft lip or palate in the fetus. The development of the brain and central nervous system (CNS) starts early in pregnancy and continues throughout pregnancy. However, the critical period for CNS development is approximately between 3-8 weeks gestation. The critical period for the development of the face, lips and palate is between 4-7 weeks gestation.

However, many of the research studies done have only looked at the women who were exposed to solvents because of the type of occupation they were in and not on women who had a one time or very short exposure to solvents.

In your case, your wife was not in the house while you were using the stain. It also appears from your question that she did not have any symptoms of overexposure such as headache, nausea, dizziness or loss of coordination. From your description I would think that the risk of the baby having problems is low.

If you and your wife are concerned, I would recommend that you speak with your doctor about seeing a genetic counselor to discuss the exposure in more detail. You can locate a genetics center near you by visiting the National Society of Genetic Counselors’ website below.

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Response by:

Anne   Matthews, RN, PhD Anne Matthews, RN, PhD
Associate Professor of Genetics
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University