Can Concrete Sealer Be Harmful: 8 Awareness [Safety]

Last Updated on February 6, 2023

Concrete sealers are used to protect and waterproof surfaces. While they can be beneficial, they may also pose certain health risks if not used safely. Research has found that concrete sealers contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can be harmful when inhaled or touched.

VOCs have been linked to respiratory problems, contact dermatitis, and environmental pollution. In addition, toxic fumes produced during application can cause irritation and other adverse reactions in people who are exposed to them. Fortunately, there are alternatives to traditional concrete sealers that may cause fewer health risks. 

Potential Health Risks of Using Concrete Sealer

Respiratory Issues

1. Toxic Fumes Produced during Application: 

The application of concrete sealers can produce toxic fumes that are very dangerous to humans and the environment. Inhaling these fumes can cause a variety of respiratory problems, such as asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, and even cancer.

These fumes can also irritate the eyes, nose, and throat, leading to itching and burning sensations. Furthermore, these toxins have been linked to genetic mutations in animals and plants, as well as other reproductive issues such as infertility or birth defects in humans. It is important to wear protective equipment (such as a respirator) when applying sealant to any surface. 

2. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) Released into the Air: 

VOCs are chemicals that evaporate quickly at room temperature and can become airborne when released into the environment from a chemical product like concrete sealers.

Not only are VOCs an irritant for human skin and eyes, but they have also been linked to decreased lung function in both children and adults who have been exposed to long term concentrations of them in their air supply.

Since VOCs are usually very concentrated around concrete sealers being applied or freshly sealed surfaces, it is important to keep away from these areas until they have dried completely and the danger has passed. 

Contact Dermatitis 

1. Caused by Touching Sealed Concrete with Bare Skin: 

Contact dermatitis is a skin condition caused by direct contact with an allergen or irritant substance like concrete sealers containing polyurethane or acrylic components which are common allergens for many people.

Symptoms may include redness, itchiness, swelling around the affected area(s), blisters or even rashes forming on the skin that come into contact with the sealer after it has dried completely due to its non-biodegradable properties.

In some cases this can lead to longer lasting complications if not treated properly so it is important to avoid direct contact with sealed surfaces and wear protective clothing when working with them.  

2. Risk Factors for Allergic Reactions from Exposure to Sealers: 

Certain individuals are pre-dispositioned for allergic reactions due to existing medical conditions such as eczema or asthma which could make them more susceptible than others when coming into contact with allergens like concrete sealers containing polyurethane or acrylic components which are common allergens found in many products like paints, lacquers etc.,

If these individuals do come into contact with these substances without protective gear there is an increased risk of developing symptoms related to contact dermatitis or other serious health risks due their weakened immune system leaving them vulnerable against reacting negatively towards substances entering their bloodstream directly through their skin pores when touching sealed surfaces without protection or taking proper safety measures beforehand while handling those materials.

Environmental Concerns with Concrete Sealers

1. Pollutants Released through Stormwater Runoff 

The potential health risks of using concrete sealer in the form of stormwater runoff is an important environmental concern. When these types of products are used on outdoor surfaces, their chemicals can be washed away by rain or irrigation and deposited into nearby ecosystems.

This runoff can contaminate water supplies with harmful chemicals, such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are potentially carcinogenic pollutants that have been linked to a number of respiratory health issues, such as asthma, allergies, and some chronic diseases.

Additionally, some sealers contain toxic metals like lead and zinc which can also leach into waterways and impact aquatic life, resulting in bioaccumulation up the food chain. As such, it is important to always consider the potential impacts of runoff when selecting a concrete sealer product.

2. Pollution of Groundwater Sources and Aquatic Ecosystems 

The use of concrete sealer may also contribute to pollution of groundwater sources and aquatic ecosystems if not carefully monitored. This type of product contains chemicals which could leach into underground aquifers as well as streams and rivers when exposed to rain or snow melt.

These chemicals are often toxic and may cause significant damage to aquatic life if they reach too high concentrations in the water body. What’s more, many sealers also contain petroleum-based substances which can be difficult for aquatic organisms to digest or break down naturally.

Such pollutants may accumulate over time in the environment posing long-term health risks for human populations that depend on these contaminated water sources for drinking or food production purposes. 

3. Non-Biodegradable Components of Sealers in Soil and Waterways

Concrete sealers may also pose a risk due to their non-biodegradable components that remain in soil and waterways after they are used on outdoor surfaces. These parts cannot be broken down naturally by microorganisms found in the environment meaning they will remain present until manually removed or diluted by other chemicals entering the system.

Such components may include plasticizers as well as synthetic polymers which can persist for years without breaking down presenting a clear risk to both wildlife and human health alike – particularly if individuals come into direct contact with them due to recreational activities near contaminated areas like swimming or fishing sites .  

4. Hazardous Waste Generation from Polyurethane or Acrylic Sealers 

Finally, certain types of concrete sealer products containing polyurethane or acrylic materials generate hazardous waste during their use which needs careful management for disposal afterwards in order to avoid any detrimental impacts on public health.

Such substances often require special procedures for managing due to their high toxicity levels particularly when stored improperly causing exposure either directly through skin contact or indirectly through air inhalation leading to short-term respiratory problems including headaches, dizziness ,and nausea ,as well as longer-term effects like cancer depending on how much is inhaled over time .

Alternatives to Traditional Concrete Sealers

Alternatives to Traditional Concrete Sealers

Concrete sealers are important for protecting concrete and preserving its longevity. However, there are many types of concrete sealers and not all of them are safe or beneficial. In this article, we will discuss the possible dangers associated with traditional concrete sealers and explore some safer alternatives.

Water-Based Silane/Siloxane Mixtures 

Water-based silane/siloxane mixtures have been used as a concrete sealer for many years. While they can be effective at providing protection from water and other elements, they also come with some potential health risks due to their volatile organic compounds (VOCs) content.

These VOCs can be hazardous to humans if inhaled in high concentrations, leading to potential respiratory problems, skin irritation, and even cancer when exposed over long periods of time. Additionally, silane/siloxane mixtures can be difficult to apply correctly, leading to an uneven surface that could lead to staining or other issues over time.

Natural Oil Based Products, Such as Linseed Oil and Tung Oil

Natural oil based products like linseed oil and tung oil have also been used as a concrete sealer in the past. While these products are generally much safer than synthetic sealers as far as health risks go, they are often not effective at providing the same level of protection that a synthetic product would offer.

Additionally, there is always the risk of staining occurring due to improper application or residue left behind after application that could damage the surface of the concrete over time. Furthermore, applying natural oils can be quite labor intensive since it must often be reapplied every few months in order to provide adequate protection from water and other elements.

Are sealers toxic?

Sealers used on concrete can be either non-toxic, or potentially harmful, depending on the type of sealer used. Non-toxic sealers are made from water-based acrylics and polyurethanes, and do not contain any VOCs (volatile organic compounds) which could be hazardous to your health.

However, other types of sealers, particularly those containing solvents or isocyanates, can be potentially hazardous if inhaled or exposed to the skin. It is always important to read the manufacturer’s instructions and safety information carefully before using a concrete sealer.

The use of appropriate protective equipment such as gloves and a face mask can reduce the risk of exposure when working with potentially hazardous materials. 

How long should you stay off freshly sealed concrete?

After sealing a concrete surface, it is generally recommended that you stay off it for at least 24 hours in order to let the sealer cure properly. During this time, it is important to avoid walking on or putting any furniture or objects on the sealed surface in order to prevent damage while the sealer is curing.

Depending on the type of sealer used, it may take up to 3 days for it to fully cure and reach its maximum performance level. As such, it may be beneficial to avoid heavy traffic or placing items on a newly sealed surface for up to 3 days after application. 

Should you wear a mask when sealing concrete?

When applying any type of concrete sealer, there is always potential risk of inhaling vapors which could be hazardous if breathed in directly. As such, it is highly recommended that you wear an appropriate face mask when sealing concrete surfaces.

Look for masks that are certified by National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) as being fit for purpose against dust particles these are usually designated N95 respirators with two straps that go around your head as well as over the nose and mouth area.

Additionally, wearing rubber gloves during application will help protect your hands from coming into contact with any chemicals contained within the sealer product itself. 

What happens if you put on too much concrete sealer?

What happens if you put on too much concrete sealer

Applying too much concrete sealer may result in an overly glossy finish caused by excess accumulation in areas where more than one layer has been applied. This can lead to discoloration as well as reduced durability due to increased wear resistance caused by excessive levels of shine reflecting sunlight onto the surface area below; thus increasing UV radiation exposure levels which can accelerate deterioration over time.

Additionally, too much sealant may cause bubbling or foaming due to trapped air pockets forming during application; resulting in an uneven finish which becomes difficult to repair without sanding down affected areas back down to bare flooring material again before reapplication takes place – causing extra work and added cost overall. 

What do professionals use to seal concrete?

Professional contractors often use solvent-based acrylic urethane products when sealing concrete surfaces due their superior performance characteristics compared with non-toxic alternatives such as water-based acrylics and polyurethanes; including increased longevity under extreme weather conditions (high temperatures), greater resistance against chemicals like motor oil & gasoline spillages due to their enhanced water repellency properties; faster drying times enabling quicker return times back into service post application versus non-solvent based counterparts etc.

Additionally solvent-based acrylic urethane products have typically lower viscosities making them easier & quicker for experienced applicators who already know how they behave on various substrates compared with non-solvent based solutions; thus providing higher throughput rates per job site/contractor leading towards greater efficiency gains overall across projects undertaken by professional contractors who specialize in outdoor hardscape installation works.


The use of concrete sealers comes with inherent risks for both people and the environment. Those who use these products should do so in a well-ventilated area and take all necessary precautions to minimize exposure.

It’s also important to consider using healthier alternatives such as water-based silane/siloxane mixtures or natural oil-based products like linseed oil and tung oil instead of conventional concrete sealers. By taking these steps, you can help ensure your safety while still providing the desired protection for your home or workplace surfaces.

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