How do I protect my family from this chemical smell?
January 20, 2018 5:57 PM   Subscribe

Just moved into a new multi-family dwelling. The two upstairs bathrooms smell awful. I thought it was cigarette smoke, but I'm not really sure. It's making my eyes water and sinuses hurt. What can I do?

I have an air purifier blowing into the room with the worst smell. I'm thinking of buying another. Our property manager hasn't done the inspection yet, so I'm hoping he will do something about it. I've bought several purifying indoor plants. Anything else I can do? I believe we share ventilation with the neighbors so it is either coming from them or left over from the previous tenant. If you've been in this type of situation, what sort of hermetic sealing products did you find to be effective? I cannot live like this.
posted by crunchy potato to Home & Garden (6 answers total)
I think you need to determine the source and cause of the smell in order to figure out how to eradicate it... Is it coming from the vents? From inside the walls? What does it smell like - you say chemicals but also cigarette smoke? Were the bathrooms recently renovated? How long has it smelled? Does opening a window help?
posted by amro at 6:50 PM on January 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

Are there no other vacant units in this dwelling? I would be focusing on getting out of this particular unit and into one that does not have eye-wateringly bad indoor air quality, because if it is as bad as you describe, it is hard to imagine that it can be "covered up".
posted by misterbrandt at 7:16 PM on January 20, 2018

You said this is a new building. Often there is an "outgassing" period for all of the chemicals to dissipate. Maybe it will get better with time, but that sinus thing worries me.

I am not an expert in any way, I just read about this once.
posted by mecran01 at 7:30 PM on January 20, 2018

It sounds like you are renting? If so the owner has an obligation to provide you with a livable space ("warranty of habitability"). If the odor is so bad that your eyes are watering, etc. then the owner has failed to provide that space.

You should not be fixing the problem, that is the responsibility of the property manager. Get them there first thing tomorrow and let them know in writing that you will be withholding rent until the source of the odor is found and cleared up. Stay elsewhere if you need to and if you have to get a hotel room tell the property manager that you need to be reimbursed for the cost.

This could be something simple like a broken exhaust fan. Can you hold a piece of tissue paper up next to the vent to see if the exhaust is working?
posted by plastic_animals at 7:43 PM on January 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

Not likely to be a chemical smell, but run water into every drain in the house. A sewer trap without water will allow sewer gas (and smell) to enter the building.
Also, in a new building, it is possible that there is a defect in the plumbing, or in the gas lines.
posted by H21 at 7:45 PM on January 20, 2018 [6 favorites]

This is your landlord's problem.
posted by jbenben at 1:04 AM on January 21, 2018

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