VOCs in Your Flooring: Are They Causing Infertility, Birth Defects, or Cancer?

VOCs
Image via Pixabay

Many of the floor coatings that have been used to protect wood floors contain carcinogenic and toxic chemicals that emit Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) into the air. This comes from a new report by UL Environment, a global independent safety science company. These solvent-based floor coatings have been used in homes, nurseries, workplaces, and schools for decades. These VOCs harm indoor air quality for months after application, putting consumers and vulnerable populations such as children and pregnant women at an increased risk for health problems.

To give us more information, EverydayFamily.com’s Shiloh Johnson spoke to Andrew Meyer, CEO of Vermont National Coatings, and Scott Steady, an expert from UL Environment. They discussed the report findings, the harmful effects of solvent-based floor coatings, and what consumers need to know to protect themselves.

So what do you need to know?

Consumers are typically unaware that they are being exposed to these VOCs. And VOCs can cause respiratory and neurological effects and negative impacts on reproductive and developmental health. UL Environment’s report found that solvent-based coatings emit more than 60 chemicals, including high amounts of chemicals that can impact a woman’s fertility. Additional chemicals have also been linked to cancer and can cause brain damage and birth defects. 

Less than 17% of the products sold to consumers are safe. Out of the 12 products tested by UL Environment representing the vast majority of the products available to U.S. consumers, only two qualify as clean floor coatings. Many so-called “low VOC” floor coating products contain chemicals of potential concern. This places consumers at risk. That's what makes this new report by UL Environment so important. Steady stated, “Branding can be confusing. This research is intended to provide some transparency into the different technologies that are out there.”

So what should you look for when you're in the market for a floor coating?

Try to look for a water-based floor coating, as they are generally the safer choice. Also, look for safety certifications. Steady explained, “We want to reinforce the UL Greengaurd certification logo to look for on products as safe for indoor use.” UL has been pioneering new sciences, and any product with the Greenguard certification won't pollute your indoor environment.

VOCs
Image via UL Environment

Meyer chimed in. “Come to Vermont Natural Coating’s website. We’re pleased with the study it provides scientific backing to issues we’ve been talking about. People with families should be careful about what goes on their floors. This research gives them something to look at when making their decisions.”

Here is a useful infographic:

VOCs
Image via Vermont Natural Coatings

Flooring is such an important part of your family home. Babies, toddlers, children, teenagers, pets, and yes, even you the parent, are affected by chemicals in your flooring. Hopefully, this information will help you make an informed decision when you are replacing your floors.

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VOCs in Your Flooring: Are They Causing Infertility, Birth Defects, or Cancer?

I've lived all over the place! I was born in Hawaii, grew up in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, enjoyed some time in the cities of the Bay Area, and even spent a few years in Arizona. These days I am living in beautiful Colorado and loving it. I live with my husband, baby boy, my mom, and our 5 pets (3 cats, 2 dogs). There's a lot of love in our little condo! A few of my favorite things include: Pretty dresses (especially ones I can wear while breastfeeding/pumping these days.) Tea parties wi ... More

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