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Is Laminate Flooring Toxic? It Isn’t That Simple

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Surprisingly, with question “is laminate flooring toxic” , answer isn’t a simple yes or no. Don’t get anxious, get informed. You will learn about background on laminate floors, some information about toxicity, and some things you can do in your own home to decrease toxicity levels.

Is Laminate Flooring Toxic? Tips buying less toxic type

There are a surprising number of things in your home that may have formaldehyde, so don’t take a crowbar to your floor before reading.

Why we hear and read that Laminate Floors are Toxic?

In 2015, the US television show that does investigative journalism “60 Minutes” released to the world their findings that a big distributor of laminate flooring in the US (Lumber Liquidators) was selling laminate flooring that was off-gassing formaldehyde much higher than set standards. This laminate flooring had been manufactured in China between the years 2012-2014.

We started to think and believe Laminate Flooring is toxic, But.. 

As a result, a lawsuit was filed, and ultimately a settlement was arranged. The company agreed to a $36million settlement and laminate flooring manufactures worldwide had to start making some changes.

Big U.S. governmental agencies became involved, including the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). I

In 2016 controls were put in place to limit the levels of toxic vapors in products such as laminate flooring both domestic and imports. 

Everything started to raise the level of awareness, and manufacturers together with distributors have gone to great lengths to develop better quality products worldwide. 

You may be interested in my related blog post on how to clean your laminate floors? I share few interesting tips to help you out. 

Explanations and Certifications

The bonding adhesives in laminate flooring are the culprits, specifically the formaldehyde which is classified as a carcinogen. Laminate flooring is created by bonding wood, paper, and resin.

Thankfully, many laminates available today however, are low VOC (volatile organic Compounds). These volatile organic compounds are the harmful chemicals that are released into the air from a product. You can often smell them when you’ve opened a box of something new. 

Laminate Buying TIP when Searching for low Toxic Type:

Look for the GreenGuard certification when you’re shopping for household products, including your laminate floors. If the laminate flooring has a GreenGuard certification, that means it’s the lowest level of formaldehyde allowed, and is considered a “background” level.

Some of the laminate brands that that are GreenGuard certified are:

  • Swiss Krono
  • Home Decorators Collection
  • Traffic Master
  • Pergo

When buying laminate floors, you can additionally prevent toxicity by following below few tips: 

  • Look for a floating laminate flooring that doesn’t require adhesive, that would involve less formaldehyde overall. 
  • Check for laminate that is printed with ink that is water-based. 
  • Check for low VOCs or non-VOCs on product information. 
  • Some manufacturers off-gas the flooring before they ship it; you can ask about this before buying.
  • Off-gas the flooring yourself before installing. Leave it in the garage or in another space where it is covered and protected from the weather, but the off-gases won’t emit inside your house.

What Can I Do to Reduce the Toxicity Level in My Home?

Not all laminate floors will emit high levels of VOCs. Even for floors that do, studies have shown that the formaldehyde emissions decrease over time. If you’re concerned about your flooring, there are some things you can do to help decrease the levels.

  1. Firstly, air out your house daily for at least a few minutes. Open the windows and let the fresh air from the outdoors blow through your house. This is especially important, if your home is a newer build. Newer homes are typically better insulated than older homes, this impacts ventilation and air circulation. 
  2. You can use your exhaust fans. Exhaust fans actually pull the air from inside your home and vent it outdoors. Exhaust fans are typically thought of in bathrooms and kitchens where humidity from showers and smoke from cooking are common occurrences, but you can run those exhaust fans even when those rooms aren’t in use.
  3. Heat can actually increase emissions, so try to keep the temperature in your home cool and comfortable.
  4. Humidity can increase emissions as well. A humidifier such as TBI pro could help especially in dark damp rooms.
  5. Avoid smoking in your home. Smoke from tobacco has formaldehyde in it, so make your home a smoke-free zone.

What Else Can I Do do prevent formaldehyde?

There is no way to completely avoid formaldehyde, it’s in the very air we breathe out of doors. That being said, you can be conscious about your household purchases as another way you can decrease or at least not increase the levels of formaldehyde in your home. It’s actually surprising the things in your house that may have it. Formaldehyde is present in a lot of household products including but not limited to the following:

  • permanent press cloths – this can include wrinkle free clothing, curtains, and table cloths
  • laundry detergents and dish soaps
  • bath soaps and body washes
  • cosmetics, lotions, and sunblock
  • furniture – furniture made from synthetic wood or particle board are common culprits
  • pet products
  • rugs
  • wallpaper
  • paint
  • gas stoves
  • fireplaces
  • air pollution
  • glue/adhesives

HELPFUL TIP : when looking to purchase furniture or synthetic wood products look for the acronyms NAF, NAUF, or ULEF. NAF means no added formaldehyde, NAUF means no added urea formaldehyde, and ULEF means ultra-low emitting formaldehyde.

Should I Replace My Floors if I already installed those with higher level of formaldehyde?

Not necessarily. If your flooring is a few years old, and there’s no strong chemical odor, the formaldehyde levels may have decreased to levels typically found in homes. If that is the case, there would be no reason to remove it. Moreover, removing new flooring can actually increase formaldehyde off-gassing levels.

Should I Have a Professional Come Test My Home for Toxicity?

If your laminate floor is already a few years old, or you don’t notice a strong chemical smell it may not be necessary. Generally, it is recommended to get tested if you’re having breathing problems although only when in your home, or if your home has a strong chemical smell.There are some do it yourself kits to check for toxicity levels but they are largely unreliable, and if you’re that concerned, you really need a professional so that after you have your results you have someone to consult about steps to take (if any).

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