Healthystuff.org releases new test results for a variety of products throughout
the year. Our findings section highlights the latest set of test results,
discusses overall trends and important findings for each set of products
Home Improvement Product Findings - October 2010
HealthyStuff.org tested over 3,300 home improvement products. 1,016 samples
of floooring and 2,312 samples of wallpaper were tested for this research.
The test data represents the largest publicly available database of
toxic chemicals in home improvement prodcuts. Currently, there is no
regulation of chemical hazards in the products tested. Our testing is not necessarily
representative of all flooring and wallpaper on the market. In addition, the
presence of a chemical in a product does not necessarily mean there is exposure.
Our sampling was conducted by the Ecology Center.
Heavy metals and other additives are commonly found in residential flooring and wallpaper. These chemicals include lead, cadmium, flame retardants, tin compounds and phthalates -- harmful chemicals that are linked to asthma, reproductive problems, developmental and learning disabilities, hormone problems and cancer.
Home improvement products are largely unregulated for chemical hazards and contain
hazardous chemicals additives, called phthalates, at levels prohibited in
children's products by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
CPSC prohibits the presence of 6 phthalates in children's products at levels
greater then 1,000 ppm. Download flooring phthalate test results.
PVC building materials were 7-times more likely to contain hazardous additives,
compared to non-vinyl alternatives tested in this study. All PVC materials
tested - 1,350 of 3,019 contained hazardous additives; Non-PVC materials -
18 of 273.
Over 1/2 (53% - 1,234 of 2,312) and 15% (119 of 793) of flooring had one or
more hazardous chemical additives.
Levels of hazardous chemical additives in flooring and wallpaper are commonly found in household air and dust at levels 5-100 times higher then outdoor concentrations.
There is no adequate system in place to regulate or restrict these chemicals, whether they are made in the US or abroad. Changes in the law are needed to keep lead and other toxic chemicals out of home improvement products.
Home improvement products can also be searched or viewed in a variety
> Search by Brand
> Search by Type
> Products with Low Level of Detection
> Products with Medium Level of Detection
> Products with High Level of Detection
> Products with Detectable Levels of Cadmium
Highlights of Flooring Product Findings
HealthyStuff.org tested over 1,000 (1,016) flooring products, including vinyl tile and sheet flooring, ceramic tile, wood, bamboo and cork flooring. Carpet was not sampled.
Specifically we tested:
- 731 Sheet Flooring – vinyl sheet flooring
- 30 Linoleum – natural linseed oil based flooring
- 43 Wood – prefinished hardwood flooring
- 8 Bamboo – laminated bamboo flooring
- 61 Plastic Tile – vinyl flooring tiles
- 39 Ceramic Tile
- 92 Cork – natural cork flooring
- 12 Carpet Cushion
15% of vinyl flooring products (compared to 8% of non-vinyl flooring) tested had detectable levels of one or more hazardous chemicals. Vinyl flooring products are twice as likely to contain hazardous chemical additives.
Limited testing for phthalate plasticizers indicates vinyl flooring contains
four phthalate plasticizers which were recently banned in children's products.
Four representative samples of vinyl flooring were tested from two national
brands, Armstrong and Congoleum, and two discount brands, Crystal and tiles
sold through a local hardware chain. All samples tested contained one or more
of the banned phthalates.
Flooring samples contained numerous phthalates, at up to 12.9% by weight.
The following individual phthalates were found in flooring samples:
- Bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP): maximum level of 37,000 ppm
- Butyl benzyl phthalate (BBP): maximum level of 45,000 ppm
- Di-n-octyl phthalate (DnOP): maximum level of 14,000 ppm
- Diisononyl phthaltes (DINP): maximum level of 84,00 ppm
5% (52) of all flooring samples had detectable levels of lead (>40 ppm). Products with the highest percent of lead included:
- Vinyl Sheet Flooring: 2% (23 out of 731) of the vinyl sheet flooring had
detectable levels of lead.
- Vinyl Tile Flooring: 74% (29 out of 39) of the ceramic tiles sampled contained
detectable lead, with levels as high as 1,900 ppm
2/3 or (64% - 39 of 61) of PVC flooring tiles contained organotin stabilizers.
Tributyltin is an endocrine disruptor.
Highlights of Wallpaper Findings
HealthyStuff tested over 2,300 types of wallpaper, from 11 different brands and manufacturers.
Most wallpaper is coated with polyvinyl chloride (PVC). 96% of the wallpapers sampled contained PVC coatings.
One-half (53% - 1,234 of 2,312) of PVC wallpaper samples contained one or more hazardous chemicals of concern (at > 40 ppm levels)
Nearly one in five (18% - 419 of 2,312) wallpaper samples contained detectable
level of Cadmium (>40 ppm). 13% (290 of 2,312) had levels over 100 ppm. All
wallpaper with Cadmium was vinyl coated.
15% (338 of 2,312) of wallpaper samples contain a Brominated Flame Retardants (BFR). These products contained a BFR combined with an antimony-based synergist.
PVC-Free and Green Flooring Findings
Non-vinyl flooring products are half as likely to contain hazardous chemical additives.
Linoleum, cork, bamboo and hardwood all tested free of lead, cadmium, mercury
and other hazardous metals.
PVC Building Product Hazards
Phthalates are a group of chemicals, some of which have endocrine-disrupting
properties, meaning that they can disturb normal hormonal processes,
often at low levels of exposure. (EPA 2000)
Human testing by the federal government finds phthalates in almost
all of the population, with the highest levels in children ages 6
to 11 years and in women DINP (one type of phthalate) is commonly
used as an additive in children's
2005 & 2010)
Studies have demonstrated possible links between DINP and adverse
impacts on the reproductive system, kidneys, liver, and blood. In
vitro maternal exposure to DEHP (a type of phthalate) been correlated
to improper brain development in fetal rats. (State of
Oregon & Xu
Exposure to DEHP can lead to the formation of cancerous tumors in
the liver. (Foster 2007)
A study published in 2009 found a statistically significant link
between PVC flooring, asthma, and autism spectrum disorder. The study
found that children who live in homes with vinyl floors, which can
emit phthalates, are twice as likely to have autism. (Larsson 2009)
A 2008 study found an association between concentrations of phthalates
in indoor dust and wheezing among preschool children. The presence
of PVC flooring in a child's bedroom was the strongest predictor of
A study of 10,851 children found the presence of floor moisture and
PVC significantly increased the risk of asthma. (Norback
A study among personnel in four geriatric hospitals found asthma
symptoms were more common in the two buildings with signs of phthalate
degradation in PVC flooring. (Bornehag 2004)
A study of workers in an office building found they were diagnosed
with adult-onset asthma at a rate of about 9 times higher than expected.
The researchers identified PVC flooring as the source of chemicals,
such as 2-ethyl-l-hexanol, l-butanol, in the air. (Tuomainen
A study of adults working in rooms with plastic wall covering materials
were more than twice as likely to develop asthma. These researchers
pointed to other recent epidemiologic studies in children conducted
in Norway, Finland, Sweden, and Russia that also found links between
PVC, phthalates, and respiratory problems. (Jaakkola 2006)
Exposure to phthalates is linked to birth defects of the genitals
and altered levels of reproductive hormones in baby boys. An increased
breast cancer risk is also suspected. (Main
2005, Marsee 2006)
NOTE: HealthyStuff.org is an initial screening of chemicals
in products for a handful of hazardous chemicals. There are a number
of chemicals of concern that the X-ray
fluorescence (XRF) device and HealthyStuff.org cannot detect. For
example, there has been much concern recently about bisphenol A, a component
of polycarbonate plastic. The XRF device is not able to detect bisphenol
A, nor can it identify polycarbonate. In addition, the XRF device cannot
detect phthalates, a family of chemicals of concern, although we have
used the presence of PVC plastic as a surrogate for the likely presence
* Please see our Methodology
HealthyStuff.org ratings do not provide a measure of health risk
or chemical exposure associated with any individual product, or any individual element or related chemical. HealthyStuff.org
ratings only provide a relative measure of high, medium, and low level of concern or concentrations
of several hazardous chemicals or chemical elements in product in comparison to criteria established in the methodology.