What is PVC-free resilient flooring, and is it truly the best choice for the health of those living atop it as well as the one least disruptive to the environment?
All vinyl flooring contains plasticizers in order to confer flexibility. Traditionally, those plasticizers have been made from petroleum-based phthalates, though in recent years most suppliers to the U.S. market have come up with alternatives because phthalates naturally migrate from vinyl and have been determined to be carcinogenic and otherwise unhealthy. U.S. vinyl producers have all developed alternatives. However, most vinyl flooring is imported from China, and it can be hard to determine whether all these imports are phthalate-free.
PVC-free flooring does not contain ortho phthalates, and therefore eliminates the concerns associated with them. This is obviously a good thing. It does contain tera phthalates which do exactly the same thing for the flooring without any known, at this point, adverse effects to humans. So, is PVC-free then the superior choice? The fact is that the issue is more complex than it may first seem.
As the largest single material used in the built environment, plastic surrounds us. It’s in everything: from lining the inside of our cars to carrying the water we drink to, well, look around – plastic is in almost everything, even the credit cards in our pockets. Just for fun, not really, visit this site from Reuters 2019 – A Plateful of Plastic Visualizing the amount of microplastic we eat (reuters.com)
To isolate plasticizer migration from flooring as a major concern is, then, to be somewhat naïve. It is my opinion, then, that considering the sea of plastic within which we dwell, PVC in flooring is not going to compromise the health of occupants in a space in which it’s installed unless there is a concern for a legitimate plasticizer migration event from a flooring material that is leaching. And plasticizer always leaches from vinyl materials. For example, you know that oily type film on your windshield that forms, especially in hot weather, even if you don’t smoke? That’s plasticizer leaching from all the plastic components in your car. You’re sitting in a sea of the stuff.
GREEN OR GREENWASH?
To improve materials while also adhering to the ideals of creating a truly green flooring chemistry, developers must design for degradation, design benign or less toxic compounds, and prevent the production of waste. Also, they should consider using renewable feedstocks and benign solvents as well as improving the performance of the flooring material, yielding a longer lifecycle. Using pre or post recycled content can also affect the performance of resilient flooring materials, and carpet tile backings for that matter. The more recycled content in a product, and the more it is used as that product wastes is recycled, the more compromises can be built into the finished product. And it’s a delicate balance that you are not going to be aware of.
This article was provided by LGM and Associates – For more articles visit the LGM website