to Feng Shui
play a bigger part in interior design than perhaps we
realise. Chemicals are found in many of the items that you will use in
redecorating and refurbishing and many can have a significant
impact upon your health and the earth.
This page is is intended to offer you some information about the types
of materials that may use potentially harmful chemicals.
Much of the information on this page is sourced from other websites.
Whilst I believe them all to be highly reputable please be aware
that you must make your own research and judgements as to its
accuracy and relevance to your queries. Legislation and
scientific research continues to address these issues and much
more can be found on the internet.
Vinyl actually became popular as a substitute for linoleum . Natural
linoleum sales have steadily increased over recent years, but vinyl
remains a popular choice.
The primary reason vinyl has come under fire by those concerned about
indoor air quality (IAQ) is its outgassing characteristics.
Vinyl is made from petrochemicals, particularly plasticizers. which
give the floor its flexibility. A number of chemicals, or VOCs
(Volatile Organic Compounds) are out-gassed by
Some VOCs can cause respiratory symptoms and difficulties, as well as
eye irritation. Indeed, some of the side effects are similar to
formaldehyde exposure. If the vinyl is placed using an adhesive, often
that will contain formaldehyde as well as other chemicals.
VOCs (chemical exposure) has been linked to asthma and allergies and
some of those chemicals are carcinogenic (may cause cancer).
Children are the most vulnerable as they breathe more air for their
size than do adults. Also, children live and play much closer to the
ground (the floor).
There are several types of vinyl used for flooring. There are some
differences, so we'll look at each individually.
Sheet vinyl floor is probably the biggest seller of them all. It is
also the most flexible, which means the amount of VOCs or plasticizers,
is higher in this product.
It is quite economical and comes in an enormous number of designs.
Often, it will mimic the look of tile, marble, brick, wood or stone.
Vinyl Floor Tiles
Vinyl floor tiles are thicker, and thus less prone to the amount of
outgassing that the lower end sheet vinyl gives off. Often mimicking a
ceramic style of tile, vinyl flooring tiles are not too difficult to
install, but need a bit more careful cutting than simply the sheet type.
Self Stick Vinyl
Self stick vinyl tiles have the adhesive already attached so they can
be merely "stuck" onto the floor or sub floor wherever you like. The
adhesive on these tiles doesn't tend to be as odorous as an adhesive
If you plan to use sheet vinyl or tiles, look for a low-tox adhesive.
Making Vinyl Less
Some people have been able to tolerate vinyl by allowing it to outgas
for several weeks or months in a garage or unused room in the house.
This way, the strongest outgassing can take place in unoccupied areas.
Another idea is to consider purchasing vinyl in a remnant form - this
works especially well for smaller rooms. Most likely, the remnant has
been in the outlet store for some time, and may have a less strong odor
by the time it is purchased.
Can vinyl be
considered a green product?
Considering the fact that this flooring is seldom recycled (usually
ends up in landfills) and has toxic components, it is not especially
eco-friendly. You may be surprised to discover that some of the more
natural flooring products are much more price-competitive than they
used to be.
Also, keep in mind that tile, stone, linoleum and hardwood can be
expected to have a much longer life than vinyl flooring.
Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF) is a manufactured wood product used in
a variety of industries. The manufacturing process includes some
chemicals which may be hazardous to humans, leading to concerns about
the health risks of MDF. There are two primary health risks of MDF:
exposure to the chemicals used to make it, and wood dust. By being
aware of the potential health risks of MDF, people can protect
themselves when they work with it.
To make MDF, a company shreds wood, softens it, and turns it into a
fine powder. The powder is combined with resins and other bonding
agents and compacted into solid boards. A number of different woods can
be used to make MDF, and the material is also sometimes treated to be
fire, water, or stain resistant. Many lumberyards sell varying types
and widths of MDF for an assortment of uses.
Toxic chemicals are one of the major health risks of MDF. The chemical
of most concern is formaldehyde, which can aggravate asthma and other
lung conditions, irritate mucous membranes, and cause contact
dermatitis. Studies on formaldehyde also suggest that it is a likely
carcinogen, and it should be generally avoided. During the
manufacturing process, personnel should protect themselves with
respirators and adequate clothing. When cutting or working with MDF,
nose, mouth, and eye protection should be worn. Finished MDF may also
offgas, raising concerns about its use in the home. MDF should never be
burned except in adequately ventilated facilities.
Toxic chemicals used as flame retardants are rapidly building up in the
bodies of people and wildlife around the world, approaching levels in
American women and their babies that could harm developing brains, new
The chemicals, PBDE's, or polybrominated diphenyl ethers, are used to
reduce the spread of fire in an array of plastic and foam products in
homes and offices, including mattresses, bedding, upholstered
furniture, building materials, televisions, computers and other
This year, the European Union banned the two PBDE compounds that have
been shown to accumulate in human bodies. Some European industries had
already begun to phase out the chemicals, and levels in the breast milk
of European women have begun to decline.
Information from the Environment Agency syas that PBDEs were identified
as priority substances for risk assessment under the Council Regulation
EEC 793/93 of 23rd March 1993. Following the completion of the PeBDE
risk assessment in 2000 and its subsequent review, the Commission is
now in the process of banning both the use of PeBDE and placing it on
the market as a chemical or additive in products.
Perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) are a family of
fluorine-containing chemicals with unique properties to make materials
stain and stick resistant. PFCs are incredibly resistant to breakdown
and are turning up in unexpected places around the world. Although
these chemicals have been used since the 1950s in countless familiar
products, they’ve been subjected to little government
testing.These are used in the manufacture of non-stick pans
stain resistant treatments for carpets and clothing.
There are many forms of PFCs, but the two getting attention recently
PFOA or perfluorooctanoic acid, used to make Teflon products.
PFOS or perfluorooctane sulfonate, a breakdown product of chemicals
formerly used to make Scotchgard products.
PFCs are used in wide array of consumer products and food
food packaging and paper products,
such as microwave popcorn bags and pizza boxes, contain PFCs.
- PFOS was used
until 2002 in the manufacture of 3M's
Scotchgard treatment, used on carpet, furniture, and clothing.
- PFOA is used to
make DuPont's Teflon product, famous
for its use in non-stick cookware. If Teflon-coated pans are
overheated, PFOA is released.
- PFCs are in
cleaning and personal-care products like
shampoo, dental floss, and denture cleaners.
- Even Gore-Tex
clothing, beloved in the Northwest for
its ability to shed water, contains PFCs.
How can I reduce
Avoid purchasing or, at a minimum, limit use of products containing
Avoid stain-resistance treatments. Choose furniture and carpets that
aren’t marketed as “stain-resistant,” and
apply finishing treatments such as Stainmaster to these or other items.
Where possible, choose alternatives to clothing that has been treated
for water or stain resistance, such as outerwear and sportswear. Other
products that may be treated include shoes, luggage, and camping and
Check your personal-care products. Avoid personal-care products made
with Teflon or containing ingredients that include the words
”fluoro” or ”perfluoro.” PFCs
can be found in
dental floss and a variety of cosmetics, including nail polish, facial
moisturizers, and eye make-up.
Avoid Teflon® or non-stick cookware. If you choose to continue
using non-stick cookware, be very careful not to let it heat to above
450ºF. Do not leave non-stick cookware unattended on the
use non-stick cookware in hot ovens or grills. Discard products if
non-stick coatings show signs of deterioration.
can be found at chemtrust.org.uk