Tests Uncover Hidden Chemicals in Wallpaper, Flooring

Tests Uncover Hidden Chemicals in Wallpaper, Flooring

Images courtesy HealthyStuff.org

Flooring products and wallpaper made with PVC are more likely than non-PVC products to contain lead, phthalates and other hazardous chemicals, according to tests by the Ecology Center.

For five years the Michigan-based non-profit has tested toys, cars, pet products and other items for the presence of lead, brominated flame retardants (BFRs), chlorine (PVC), cadmium, arsenic, tin, phthalates and mercury, and posted its findings to HealthyStuff.org. All of the chemicals can pose health hazards, particularly to children, and in many cases none of the chemicals are regulated in the products the Ecology Center tests.

For its latest project, a test of home improvement products, the Ecology Center tested about 1,000 flooring products and 2,300 types of wallpaper from 11 brands and manufacturers. There are no U.S. standards for chemical use in home improvement products like floors and wallpaper. However, the Ecology Center points out, products like these can pose dangers to children and pets since they are most likely to come into the most contact with them, in turn being possibly exposed to chemicals in them.

Overall, products containing PVC, which is an indicator of the use of phthalates, were seven times more likely to contain hazardous chemicals. About 45 percent of products with PVC contained at least one chemical being looked for, while six percent of non-PVC materials had chemicals of concern. 

More than half of PVC wallpaper samples and 15 percent of vinyl flooring contained chemicals, and limited tests of four vinyl flooring products for phthalates found that each sample contained at least one type of phthalate that have been banned in children's products by the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) of 2008. The CPSIA also set lower limits on lead in children's toys and products.

While only 5 percent of all flooring contained lead, the highest levels were found in vinyl products. Flooring made from linoleum, cork, bamboo or hardwood, on the other hand, did not contain any hazardous metals.

The Ecology Center performed its tests with portable X-ray fluorescence analyzers (right), devices that have been used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Food & Drug Administration and health departments to screen packaging, food and home paint. Some samples were also examined through laboratory tests with methods used by the EPA.

The Center's website provides results from their tests, and products can be searched by brand, type and level of chemicals detected. 

Images courtesy HealthyStuff.org

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