Flooring & Health Concerns: What You Should Know About Flooring Materials

Did you know that your health and safety is an essential factor to consider when choosing flooring materials? The ever ballooning market for flooring has driven flooring manufacturers into a craze of searching for any single opportunity to supply the unique and enticing product. However, adherence to the minimum chemical and hazards remains history for another day. Over 100 lethal chemicals are mainstreaming into households through the luxurious flooring that we buy for installation in our homes, and the consequence is unbearable. Flooring materials such as laminates, hardwood, vinyl, engineered wood, ceramic, natural linoleum, and carpets all contain varying levels of distinct chemicals that you should know.

Hardwood flooring Chemicals

Wood flooring is one of the most cherished flooring material owing to its authentic aesthetic that brings nature into the room space. Moreover, wood flooring is relatively easy to clean, durable, and can be refinished to give a fresh look. Wood can also be sold when new, reclaimed, or finished. However, the most significant concern of wood flooring lies in its susceptibility to wood pests, high water absorption rates and vulnerability to scratches, and scraping. In the attempts to solve these shortcomings of wood, several chemical finishes such as polyurethanes, acrylics, and the Aluminum oxide may be used to improve the quality.

The oxide can be released during sanding, and when inhaled, it causes respiratory complications and damage to internal organs. Also, oil-based finishes for wood surface finishes contain a volatile organic compound (VOCs), which off-gas into the air. When the VOCs are inhaled, they may cause significant health risks such as damage to the liver, kidneys, central nervous system, cancer and endocrine disruption. According to research, anti-fungal such as anti-sap stain which are often used to treat wood flooring also causes developmental retardation, cancer and reproductive damage. Therefore, you can buy pre-finished wood for your flooring to avoid anti-fungal.

laminate flooring chemicals

Laminate flooring is one of the preferred flooring material due to its make-up. It consists of 90% natural material with 10% synthetic covering. These features give luxury vinyl the capability to mimic stones or natural wood. It is relatively cheap, durable and waterproof. However, some of the binding chemicals such as Urea-formaldehyde is of significant concerns. The chemical causes immunological, gastrointestinal, respiratory, reproductive, and sensory organ system complications in long term exposure. Alternatively, short term eye, nose, throat, and breathing problems may be experienced in short term exposure to the chemical.

Moreover, contamination of the laminates by heavy metals and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) harms many unsuspecting users. Adhesives used to stick it to the floor is equally of a high health risk. To stay safe from these chemicals, always buy laminates that have no formaldehyde and Urea -formaldehyde added binders.  You can also buy laminate flooring that does not need adhesives to install.

Ceramic tiles chemicals

Ceramic tile is a better choice for many homeowners due to it’s durable, resilient, waterproof and easy to clean surface. It is also the best fit for wet areas of the house such as a bathroom, laundry room and kitchen. However, tiles can be relatively costly due to the expensive labour cost involved.

Despite being made from natural materials, tile-glazing using heavy metals such as Lead makes it harmful to human health. The antimicrobial glazes serve to protect the tile surface from the growth of microbes. The most commonly used antimicrobial by unscrupulous manufacturers is Triclosan. The chemical is associated with developmental and hormonal disruption and reproductive risks. It can also cause allergen hypersensitivity and resistance to anti-microbial. Due to stringent safety regulations in the U.S, ceramic tile glazing is done using non-harmful compounds. Other harmful antimicrobial glazes include but not limited to silver zinc zeolites and nano-silver compounds. The chemicals can get into your body through ingestion of dust and skin contact. The best way to avoid encounters with the deadly compounds is by choosing to buy your home flooring materials from certified manufacturers with known locations. You can also opt to purchase non-glazed tiles to avoid the risk of getting antimicrobial into your house.

Carpets chemicals

It is the coziest flooring material commonly used in homes and commercial settings. Carpets come in a myriad of colors, shapes, sizes and texture. They can either be made of natural materials or synthetically manufactured. They are warm, soft to feel and comfortable walk on thus suitable for living room and bedroom. However, carpets are not ideal for wet areas of the house as they can easily absorb water and become damp.

Have you ever known the composition of your carpet’s backing? Carpet backings contain styrene butadiene resin (SBR) latex, polyurethane and vinyl. The SBR is known to contain a carcinogenic compound that causes developmental impairment. Vinyl is also known to contain equally harmful vinyl acetate. Coal fly ash is susceptible to contamination by Mercury. It is another chemical that is toxic and accumulates in the body. Unfortunately, some of the features, such as fire resistance and stain repellent are always cone by the use of chemicals that have health risk to human and pets.

Moreover, carpets can be sources of allergen due to the accumulation of dust and other foreign particles. The risks associated with carpet chemical hazards can be mitigated by purchasing carpets having ground glass backings instead of coal fly ash. Alternatively, avoid vinyl and go for carpets without antimicrobial and stain resistant treatment.

Vinyl flooring chemicals

It is one hundred per cent synthetically made flooring material with high water resistance, highly durable, fireproof and high resistance to abrasion and denting. The flooring material is popular among the homeowners as it mimics the expensive wood floor yet cheaper due to its synthetic nature. The two most common types of vinyl flooring material available in the market are luxury vinyl (LVF) and sheet vinyl flooring (SVF). Luxury vinyl is compost of clay, talc and limestone mixed to constitute 80% of the material combined with polyvinyl chloride (PVC) resins, stabilizers, plasticizers and pigment. The harmful content that makes 20% of the vinyl flooring is Polyvinyl chloride (PVC). The material contains chemicals such as:

  • Dixons

    They are bioaccumulative carcinogenic toxins that can persist in the environment for a long undetermined period. The compound is a significant health hazard and harms anyone or animal that come into its contact.

  • Phthalates

    -The plasticizers are added to make the vinyl flooring soft and yielding. Some phthalates are known to be carcinogenic while others pose the risk of respiratory, developmental and reproductive complications.

  • Heavy metals

    The stabilizers such as mercury, lead and cadmium have accumulative health effects that may lead to central nervous, mental malfunction. They can also severely damage kidneys, liver, blood and lungs.

  • Organotin

    The organotin stabilizer is a known bioaccumulative toxin that disrupts the endocrine system.

  • Halogenated flame retardant

    They are persistent bioaccumulated toxins rated of deep concerns. Its effects are fatal as it can cause thyroid toxicity, liver toxicity, reproductive, neurotoxicity and developmental toxicity.

It is always advisable to go for vinyl that is free from hazardous plasticizers and stabilizers.

Bottom line

With the current technology and viable flooring market, there is a great shift from natural to synthetic flooring due to the cheap cost of synthetic materials. As a result, researches display a significant number of home and residential owners suffering from the potency of chemicals associated with flooring materials. Thus, great care should be taken to buy your flooring from reputable manufacturers. You can also choose health-friendly flooring to enjoy the elegance of your room space without poisoning.