HP-33S fumes (?)

I purchased a new HP-33S calculator this week. When I opened the sealed plastic package, the case (leather?) had a strong odor that seemed to be similar to petroleum. I tried washing it off with no success. I've set it out on the patio hoping it will air-out soon. Today when I started looking at the owner's manual (which had the same odor) I started to get a headache after about 20 minutes. I noticed that the calculator was made (and packaged?) in China. Anyone else run into this problem?


Well, the case is vinyl (plastic), which is a petroleum product.
I don't recall any offensive odor emanating from my 33s when it was new, however. Hopefully, it will dissapate soon.

Best regards, Hal


Hi V85,

I found exactly this kind of petrol odor on two other products from China last summer(causing headage after just a few minutes, that is). One of it was inexpensive w/o electronics. I've washed it with different detergents and finally left it outside exposed to the sun. The smell was still there after several days. After some weeks, that thing was notably bleached but still, impossible to keep it indoor.

Sorry for the bad news but I don't think you will ever get rid of this evaporation. I'd give it back if possible:(.



I had a similar experience with some lighting for my X-mas tree, although after a while the smell became less. It was also made in China. Apperently, the chinese are somewhat neglectant when it comes to their manufactoring processes and quality issues. I mean, health affecting odors are reasons enough for an official ban of a product, not to mention that it should be unacceptible within a manufactorers quality policies, at least according to modern standards.



Vinylic polymers often have monomer (vinyl chloride) residue and additives(organic phosphates, organic/inorganic dyes, aromatic hydrocarbon-derivative flame retardants and other stuff.) When properly polymerized, monomer residue is negligible. Good quality additives require small concentrations to make their effect. Therefore, a good vinylic plastic has little if any monomer residue and just enough additives. Whatever remmant of both quickly evaporates and the concentrations are too low to pose a health hazard

Needless to say, most of this additives are petroleum products. Refined petroleum derivatives are converted into monomers and additives using carefully developed (and tightly held) processes that reduce waste and yield quality products with high purity.

As far as I know, the Chinese chemical industry lags behind its Western counterpart and its finished products are often below the necessary concentration or degree of polymerization. Therefore, there is some monomer left and more additives are needed to prepare the final product, be it a calculator case or an appliance housing. The excess quantity has to go somewhere, in this case the air, and an undesirable odor resulting from monomer and additives is the result. The unavoidable price of using cheap materials which in turn come from rather poor manufacturing processes.

There is not much to do about this except washing the case and let it in the open for a while until all the excess chemicals evaporate. However, it might take a while, and it is better to keep it away.

Your headache may be either the result of an allergic reaction or symptoms of exposition to a monomer/additive mix level that exceeds your tolerance. So it is safe for you to keep the case away.

My two cents.


"Modern Standards," "Generic Chinese manaufacture."

Is that a non-sequitur, or what?


If they didn't "lag behind" in terms of quality control and standards, I'm sure either we'd be paying more than $40-65 for the 33S or HP would go somewhere else where standards are more flexible.

I, too, wish there was a real solution.

Boy, I wonder how much a wooden cased calculator would cost. But a sheet metal one, a la homemade electronics, might be even cheaper than a fancy plastic case. Unfortunately, I suspect it might make the calc bulkier.


Not so long ago I had to deal with a Chinese company that requested Chinese additives for cement slurries rather than American ones. Just one of the "ingredients," a viscosity reducer: the American chemical worked at 0.9% by weight, while the Chinese reducer needed no less than 1.8% to do the same thing. And both were supposed to be the same polymer mix. What impurities or inert fillers or anything it had? I never bothered to find out.

I tried to make the point to the Chinese engineers but they kept saying it was cheaper, and in the end I opted to use their product. Poor manufacturing process? For sure. Poor quality control? Absolutely. But the guys kept saying wonders about their chemical industry.

The cost of Chinese goods is a mix of low salaries and poor manufacturing and quality assurance/control practices, which produce cheap goods that look good but are short lived. But we need low-cost consumer goods, and from the standpoint of some it is okay to sacrifice quality for short-term profit.


Boy, I wonder how much a wooden cased calculator would cost.

Not too much, if some cost-conscious manufacturer were to use particle board.

Of course, then you'd get to enjoy formaldehyde fumes, but surely that's a small price to pay. ;-)

- Thomas


You're probably smelling volatile organic compounds causing a sensation and reaction akin to the "new car smell".


Left in the open the smell should dissipate with time.



Possibly Related Threads…
Thread Author Replies Views Last Post
  Integration Times "Old" 33s vs "New" 33s John Smitherman 21 4,569 12-14-2005, 12:04 AM
Last Post: Karl Schneider

Forum Jump: