The other day, my tile installer asked me if I had heard of the health problems with LVP and LVT flooring. He went on to say his wife read that it was toxic, especially for kids, you shouldn’t walk on it barefoot, and they won’t even stay in a vacation property that has the flooring, because of the health risks. I admit, I was dubious, but knowing that we have been installing more and more LVP flooring in recent years for clients, and I’ve even installed it in my own house (and have 4 kids) I decided it was an issue worth looking into. I spent some time reading various, often conflicting, articles on the internet to see if I could make some sense of the issue. Here’s what I found.
One article from artisanwoodfloors.com (note the source) says that LVT is made mainly of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and that numerous tests have shown PVC flooring to be harmful and Luxury Vinyl to be toxic. The article is correct in stating that PVC is a known carcinogen and contains environmental toxins such as dioxin and phthalates. However, the article failed to state when and how PVC is toxic. For example, plumbers merely handling PVC pipe are at low risk, however cutting it and inhaling the dust is indeed dangerous. The article also states that generally dioxins are only released with extreme heat, such as during manufacturing, so they pose a lesser threat to you and your family. The phthalates, however, pose a significant problem.
Are you scared yet, well not so fast. Another source, Corinne Segura at my chemicalfreehome.net, has a different take. She points out that LVP flooring is very low in volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) and has a low amount of off gassing. The SPC (stone, polymer composite core) of most LVP is 60-80% limestone, with the rest being PVC and plasticizer. The wear layer is vinyl and the top coat is polyurethane with aluminum oxide cured under UV lights so there is no off gassing. I immediately think of hardwood floors installed with 3 coats of polyurethane finish and that the LVP is probably a safer option in that regard.
Juppsfloorcoverings.com goes a bit further with an explanation that in 2015 it was revealed that phthalates (PVC softener) were used in the manufacture of vinyl flooring. Prolonged exposure can lead to health risks including respiratory and reproductive health issues. However, by 2020 most manufacturers have eliminated the use of phthalates and are now low VOC and ‘phthalate free’. I did notice that it says MOST manufacturers eliminated the use, but not all. That means that the consumer needs to be educated and know to look for phthalate free flooring. In my research I did notice that Home Depot is often sited as a supplier that insists upon phthalate free flooring. It appears that most reputable manufacturers are now phthalate free, but it would still be wise to do the research and ask the question before purchasing a product to install in your home.
What to do if you have older LVP flooring installed in your home and are concerned? There are resources available to test the flooring, if the manufacturer is unknown or you are unable to find out if phthalates were used in the manufacturing of the flooring. Healthline.com recognizes that replacing flooring may not be a viable option, but states that simple things like washing hands before eating, increasing ventilation in the home, and minimizing house dust can reduce exposure. While it may be true that LVP flooring, like many products we use on a daily basis, hasn’t been around long enough to truly know long term effects, it appears that responsible companies have already taken the initiative to remove phthalates from their flooring to make them safe for consumer use.