Compliance - Choosing Safe Flooring 1

Feb 11, 2020
Traditionally, our decisions when choosing flooring for our homes have been based around appearance, purpose and cost. What style of floor sings out to us? What will our floors be used for and how long will they need to last? What will our budget afford us?

Questions relating to the impact of flooring products on our health have probably not been at the forefront of our minds.

However, it’s important to consider health when choosing flooring. Sure, you’re not likely to eat your dinner off your kitchen floor. But you will be inhabiting the same space as this product day in and day out. You need to know it’s safe.

Hazards have been a part of flooring products in the past, and in the present for some lower quality products. You need to know what these hazards are, and how to avoid them.

VOCS, formaldehyde and phthalates

VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) are a class of chemicals contained in many household furnishings and products, including new carpets and carpet glues. Typically encountered in wet applied products such as adhesives, paints and sealants, VOCs are hazardous because they can evaporate under normal temperatures and cause photochemical smog.

The negative effects of VOCs are many and varied. Some have been found to be respiratory irritants, and some, known carcinogens.1

Formaldehyde is one such VOC. A known human carcinogen, long term exposure to formaldehyde has been linked to leukemia and various nasal cancers. Short term exposure can irritate the airways and trigger asthma.

Formaldehyde has been found in some types of laminate flooring, as well as in other household building materials and furnishings. The presence of formaldehyde can result in offgassing (or outgassing), the process by which airborne VOC particulates or chemicals are released from a product. If you have more than one formaldehyde-containing product in a home, the potency of off-gases increases. This easily occurs if you have furniture, curtains, and flooring all containing formaldehyde. Even if one of these individual products does not exceed acceptable limits, the sum of all products in an enclosed space might.

Ortho-phthalates (phthalates)


Contained in PVC and vinyl, ortho-phthalates are chemicals used to alter the flexibility and durability of plastics. They can be found in PVC, vinyl and laminate flooring.

Ortho-phthalates have been found to have negative effects on human health. They are hormone-disruptors and can impact childhood and reproductive development in humans. They’ve also been linked to ‘breast cancer, developmental issues, decreased
fertility, obesity and asthma’.2

The European Union banned the use of ortho-phthalates in children’s products, which makes one wonder why we would allow it in building materials and furnishings, where children live and play.

1Retrieved October 2019 from Wikipedia, Outgassing
2Retrieved 10/11/2019 from the Breast Cancer Prevention Partners website, Phthalates

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