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Can your floor make you sick?

Consumer Reports tests phthalates in vinyl floors to assess the risk

Published: August 06, 2015 05:15 PM

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A few months have passed since Lumber Liquidators suspended sales of laminate flooring sourced from China pending its investigation after a 60 Minutes report accused the retailer of selling floors that emitted high levels of formaldehyde. But another concern, phthalates in vinyl flooring, has also garnered attention since both Home Depot and Lowe’s announced that flooring products they sell will be phthalate-free by 2016. We support what these home centers are doing.

Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, has long raised concerns about phthalates. Used to make plastics more pliant, these compounds are also endocrine disruptors—and some are classified by the Environmental Protection Agency as possible or probable carcinogens.

As the video of our testing shows, we ran our own tests for 13 types of phthalates. Our results? Phthalates are used, but levels in the flooring varied. In terms of consumer exposure, we found only very low levels in the air and on wipes we ran across the 17 vinyl samples and one sample of wood flooring we tested.

Although we found phthalate levels to be very low in our wipe test of new and artificially aged floor tiles, we still recommend caution. Parents of toddlers should wet-mop the floor often and wash children’s hands after the little ones have been crawling on a vinyl floor.

Teragren Portfolio Naturals Wheat

Need a new floor?

We test for flooring products’ resistance to foot traffic, scratches, stains, dents, sunlight, and other abuse, and our flooring Ratings show results for 55 wood, bamboo, laminate, vinyl, linoleum, and tile floors. Among top picks are the Teragren Portfolio Naturals Wheat TPF-PORTTG-WHT, a prefinished bamboo floor for $7.50 (all prices are per square foot); the engineered-wood TrafficMaster Western Hickory Desert Gold DH77700144, $3 at Home Depot; the laminate Armstrong Coastal Living L3051 White Wash Walnut, $3.50; and the vinyl Tarkett NAFCO PermaStone Collection—Natural Slate-Sand Stone NS-660, $4.70. See our flooring buying guide for pros and cons of the various flooring types.

—Ed Perratore (@EdPerratore on Twitter)

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