8 Facts About Harmful Chemicals in Vinyl Flooring: Phthalates

The safety of flooring products has been getting lots of attention since a 60 Minutes report earlier this year said that laminate wood flooring imported from China by Lumber Liquidators contained dangerous levels of the toxic chemical formaldehyde. "When kids play on the floor, they are exposed just as much as if it's in the toys," said Tony Iallonardo, spokesman for Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families. "It's a major cause of exposure for children." Phthalates can migrate out of flooring materials and get into the air and dust inside homes.

Read More on Formaldehyde Here

1. What are Phthalatestoys

Most vinyl flooring contains chemicals called phthalates, many of which have been banned from children's products over concerns of negative health effects. Phthalates are used to soften plastic and vinyl and make them more flexible. But they're believed to be toxic and have been linked to a laundry list of ailments.

2. Regulations

  • There are no federal laws or rules prohibiting the group of chemicals known as phthalates from vinyl flooring.
  • The Consumer Product Safety Commission does limit phthalates to less than 0.1% of the material used in toys and kids' products.
  • Government regulators around the world are increasing scrutiny and restrictions on the use of some phthalates.

3. Health Concerns and Risks

  •          In light of the growing concern over phthalates in products marketed to children, the European Union has banned or restricted six types of phthalates from use in children's toys.
  •          The CDC reports that phthalates have not been used in the US to manufacture pacifiers, soft rattles, and tethers since 1999.
  •          Exposure can occur from breathing in air that contains phthalate vapors or dust contaminated with phthalate particles.
  •          The CDC also notes that over 90 percent of Americans have measurable levels of phthalates in their bodies

4. Phthalate Testing in the Flooring Industry


The study by HealthyStuff.org, part of the nonprofit Ecology Center, tested 65 vinyl floors and found that 58 percent had phthalates. Testing was for Surface Layers of Vinyl Floor Tiles Surface layers of 65 vinyl tiles which were separated from the tile backing and analyzed by the HealthyStuff.org lab using FTIR spectroscopy.

The samples were purchased from major home improvement retailers. Flooring tiles that did contain phthalates had levels of the chemical between 10 and 90 times greater than the standard for children's toys.

Results can be found here

5. Result of Testing by Retailers

Retailer Percent Of Flooring Containing Phthalates
Lowes 48%
Lumber Liquidators 100%
Menards 23%
Ace Hardware 100%
Build.com 25%
  • Home Depot will be the first major retailer to remove a chemical from vinyl flooring that's considered dangerous to children.
  • Lumber Liquidators issued a statement saying it has been taking steps to phase out phthalates.
  • Lowes is still selling the toxic flooring including many products by Style Selections, check one out here.

6.  Result of Testing by Flooring Brands

  • Among flooring brands, Armstrong and Designer’s Image stood out for having zero of tested tiles with phthalates in the surface layer.
  • Brands with Detected flooring are Shaw, Tranquility, Centurity, Congoleum, Style Selections, Stainmaster, Mohawk, and Tivoli.

7. When Recycled Materials Do More Harm Than Good

New research by the Healthy Building Network reveals that toxic hazards are now beingrecycling-48271_640 reintroduced into our homes, schools and offices in recycled vinyl content that is routinely added to floors and other building products. “Legacy” substances used in PVC products, like lead, cadmium, and phthalates, are turning up in new products through the use of cheap recycled content.

The full report can be found here

8. Ways to limit exposure

For families with small children, Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families spokesman Tony Iallonardo said ceramic tiles and linoleum are good alternatives to vinyl. "Be a smart consumer and look at the ingredients and research the supplier before you make the purchase," Iallonardo said.


Environmental awareness both inside and outside of the home has increased dramatically over the last several years. Consumers have more access to information and are expecting more from the companies they purchase from. In the wake of the Lumber Liquidators Formaldehyde Flooring 60 Minuets Report this investigation is yet another examination of the health of our living and work places. The Home Depot is far ahead of its competitors by requiring its suppliers to eliminate ortho-phthalates in all virgin vinyl flooring by the end of 2015. Consumers can expect other retailers to follow in Home Depot’s footsteps. This will push pressure on flooring brands to stop using toxins.


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