Researchers known for exposing toxic chemicals in children’s toys have turned their attention to home improvement products, finding ingredients in flooring and wallpaper that are linked to serious health problems.
The nonprofit Ecology Center tested over 1,000 flooring samples and nearly 2,300 types of wallpaper for substances that have been linked to asthma, birth defects, learning disabilities, reproductive problems, liver toxicity and cancer. The results were released today on the easy-to-use consumer website – www.HealthyStuff.org – which also includes prior research on toys, pet products, cars, women’s handbags, back-to-school products and children’s car seats.
“The public needs to know that there are practically no restrictions on chemicals used in home improvement products,” said Jeff Gearhart, the Ecology Center’s lead researcher, who founded HealthyStuff.org. “Our testing shows that toxic chemicals show up everywhere in home improvement products. If we don’t want these chemicals in our toys, we certainly don’t want them in our floors.”
HealthyStuff.org tested home improvement products for chemicals based on their toxicity or tendency to build up in people and the environment. These chemicals include lead, bromine (brominated flame retardants), chlorine (PVC), cadmium, arsenic, tin (organotins), pththalates and mercury.
People spend about 90% of their time indoors, so indoor concentrations of hazardous chemicals can be more relevant to human exposure assessment than ambient concentrations. Children and pets are particularly vulnerable, since they are frequently close to the floor and therefore have high levels of exposure.
In addition to finding many products with chemical hazards, HealthyStuff.org test data shows that many products do not contain dangerous substances, proving that safe products can be made.
Highlights of Findings from HealthyStuff.org’s Home Improvement Study:
Flooring: Flooring that was tested includes wood, bamboo, cork, carpet cushion, sheet flooring, and vinyl and ceramic tiles.
- Flooring samples contained numerous phthalates, at up to 12.9% by weight. Limited testing for phthalate plasticizers indicates most vinyl flooring contains four phthalate plasticizers recently banned in children’s products.
- Two-thirds 39 of 61 (64%) of PVC flooring tiles contained organotin stabilizers. Some forms of organotins are endocrine disruptors; and other forms can impact the developing brain and are toxic to the immune system.
- Safe alternatives are available. Linoleum, cork, bamboo and hardwood all tested free of lead, cadmium, mercury and other hazardous metals. Non-vinyl flooring products are half as likely to contain hazardous chemical additives.
Wallpaper: HealthyStuff.org tested over 2,300 types of wallpaper, from 11 different brands and manufacturers.
- The vast majority (96%) of the wallpapers sampled contained polyvinyl chloride (PVC) coatings.
- Over one-half (53% or 1,234 of 2,312) of PVC wallpaper samples contained one or more hazardous chemicals of concern (at > 40 ppm levels) including lead, cadmium, chromium, tin and antimony.
- Limited testing for phthalate plasticizers indicates that most PVC wallpaper also contains phthalates plasticizers which are now banned in children’s products.
The full home improvement database and more information about what consumers can do is available now at www.HealthyStuff.org.
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