PVC Floors and Health

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You may not think much about your floors and what they are made of. Your goal may simply be to keep your floor clean – a clean floor is a healthy one, right? Actually, it depends…your floor may be very clean but still have a negative effect on your family’s health. Here are some reasons why.

Flooring Material

If you have flooring that is not hardwood, tile or carpet, you probably refer to it as “linoleum.” However, unless your house pre-dates the 1950s and has the original flooring, it’s more than likely that you have vinyl flooring.

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)

Vinyl flooring is the general term used to describe floors made from PVC. The manufacture, normal use, and disposal of PVC flooring is a process that is rife with chemicals. Here are some of the chemicals used in PVC, and their known or possible health effects.

* Dioxin is given off when PVC burns. Dioxin is extremely toxic and is known to cause cancer and reproductive disorders. It is particularly implicated in breast cancer.

* Pthalates are used as fragrance carriers in cleaners and as softeners in PVC manufacturing. Pthalates come in various forms, such as diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) and butyl benzyl phthalate (BBzP). DEHP and BBzP are commonly used in PVC flooring, and high levels of this chemical in indoor air is implicated in childhood development of allergies. Pthalates are also implicated in the development of autism. They may cause reproductive problems due to their similarity to human hormones.

* Chlorine accounts for the “chloride” half of PVC’s name. In fact, PVC’s composition is a little more than half chlorine. Chlorine is a suspected carcinogen and can cause respiratory problems.

* Vinyl chloride itself, when out-gassed, can cause liver cancer.

Toxic Maintenance

In addition to the PVC itself, PVC flooring requires the use of toxic substances to maintain its appearance. This adds to the overall toxicity of PVC floors. For example, the wax used on PVC floors contains volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are linked to a host of health problems.

The finish of PVC floors contains, among many other chemicals, formaldehyde and styrene. Formaldehyde is a recognized carcinogen and styrene is a suspected carcinogen. Both chemicals are implicated in asthma and gastrointestinal toxicity.

There are certainly health concerns associated with PVC flooring. If you think you might have PVC flooring in your home, consider careful removal of it and replacing it with natural flooring such as cork, hardwood or linoleum.

If you are preparing to remodel your home, you may be tempted to go with the cheaper PVC flooring option, but when you consider the potential health risks and the cost of family members possibly getting asthma, allergies, autism, or cancer, PVC can be a very expensive flooring choice.

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