Paint and flooring in our homes have a large impact on indoor air quality. They can contain VOCs or volatile organic compounds. These chemicals are mostly harmless, but some can be lethal carcinogens. The immune system is not able to fight off VOCs, so the elderly and children are more sensitive to getting sick. Paint is a well-known suspect, but choosing the right flooring can be difficult.
The major types of affordable flooring options, like carpet, vinyl, and laminate flooring are major contributors. Vinyl has been a popular option for its low price and resemblance to hardwood flooring. Many types of vinyl contain PVC which releases phthalates, such as the troubling DEHP (diethylhexyl phthalate). Phthalate exposure is known to affect fertility and reproductive health.
The great news is that there are resources that can help when choosing flooring options.
Greenguard and Greenguard Gold Certifications
This certification is given to different products, such as flooring, furniture, and paint. There are levels of certifications, each with a minimum chemical emission threshold.
The Greengard certification means products are tested for more than 10,000 chemicals, as well as VOC emissions. The Greenguard Gold products are tested and meet a much lower chemical and VOC threshold, with each product type having a different limit.
FloorScore is another great resource that has similar chemical and VOC limits as the Greenguard Gold and is only limited to flooring and floor adhesives (which is the main culprit).
Green Label Plus
The Green Label Plus certification is given to the lowest emitting carpet, adhesive, and carpet cushion products available.
The Right Choice
When it comes to the right choice, organic, and natural resources, like hardwood flooring, concrete, or natural stone tiles, are always the best option since they are naturally phthalate-free. When it comes to the adhesive and sealer, which can be problematic, there are many natural materials that can be used.
Natural materials last longer, are less likely to be harmful, and might be repairable - which is more sustainable. Most homes are not made with compostable or eco-friendly material, instead using the same materials that are making us sick.
The most important takeaway is that manufacturers and product designers must take consumer health into account. As more research is being done on chemicals, the better we understand the health concerns and how companies need to be more accountable.