Healthier Surfaces

April 12, 2019

Consumers want to know more about what is in their food, water and the air they breathe, so the materials they install also need to be up to par. Along with trends in colors, textures and patterns, this past week at Coverings I heard a lot about how many tile manufacturers are becoming more transparent about what is in their products.

In a recent study conducted at the Clemson University Advanced Materials Research Center, it was found that not all types of surfaces are as healthy as they seem. Some types of plastic-based material (PBM) flooring were flammable, supported the growth of mold and were not water resistant. They also were not slip resistant when water was applied and were easily scratched by just a fingernail.

Instead, manufacturers that do produce healthy, sustainable and durable flooring products are making sure the public knows the truth about what’s in the products they buy. Here are some tips of what to look for in these labels.

  1. Zero VOCs. Products that are manufactured at temperatures that reach up to 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit emit no VOCs (volatile organic compounds). VOCs are harmful gases that can cause headaches, eye, nose and throat irritation and more.
  2. Zero Formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is known to lead to an increased incidence of asthma, particularly in the children and the elderly. It is used as a binder often in products containing medium-density fiberboard, plywood and particleboard.  Products that are made without binders – like ceramic or porcelain tiles – do not contain these.
  3. Zero PVC. PVC (polyvinyl chloride) is a type of plastic resin commonly used in surfaces to improve mechanical flexibility and heat stability, but it also contains phthalates and organotin, which are considered toxic chemicals. Along with being unsustainable, PVC is thought to be linked to cancer and kidney problems.
  4. Recyclable. Surfaces made from all-natural materials can be recycled at the end of their lifetime, contributing to a healthier environment for everyone.
  5. Fire-Resistant. Look for products that are non-flammable, meaning they don’t create smoke in a fire and would not give off toxic fumes in the event of one. Having non-flammable flooring also is important for maintaining clear exit pathways for the homeowners.

Check out a gallery of products here from the show!