Is Laminate Wood Flooring Toxic?

Written by sam kellenberg
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Is Laminate Wood Flooring Toxic?
Unfortunately, some types of flooring can be hazardous to your health. (Background from a piece of linoleum. image by Egor Tkachenko from Fotolia.com)

Laminate flooring is different from linoleum and PVC flooring, incorporating layers of paper, wood and resin. It is comparatively cheap, especially to natural tile or wood floors, and is hailed as low maintenance and stain resistant. However, laminate flooring has poor insulation, as well as low durability, with a useful life averaging 15 years. And some varieties of laminate flooring also release considerable amounts of formaldehyde gasses, making them quite toxic.

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Composition

A high quality laminate flooring should consist of 20 per cent synthetic material and adhesives and 80 per cent wood and paper. Layers of paper and wood comprise the centre of the material, while a clear, stamped or printed coat of resin rests on top. The bottom is a layer of water-repelling material. The layers are bonded together with high heat, sealers, and pressure. The formaldehyde content of laminate flooring is usually found in the sealers used.

Installation

Laminate flooring has become exceptionally popular due to the fact that, in many installations, it can be put down without even using adhesives. As some traditional floor adhesives are toxic in nature or are carcinogens, this fact has some broad appeal.

Emissions

Formaldehyde and other toxic substances are used in the manufacture of laminate flooring. The World Health Organization's suggested cap for formaldehyde emissions rests at 0.042 ppm; formaldehyde emissions released by laminate flooring can exceed 0.1 ppm.

Alternatives

Low or zero-emission laminate floors can be found, and a variety of cheap, long-lasting substitutes are already on the market. Natural cork is an easy replacement to laminate flooring and comes with the bonus of acoustic insulation. Natural linoleum floors are also available and are made from a mixture of organic and inorganic components such as linseed oil, pine resin, cork, clay and chalk.

Cautions

Many types of flooring have similar health risks. PVC flooring, for example, gives off gasses from several harmful chemicals. Research the potential health concerns of any new flooring before making the commitment to install it in your home.

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