If you are looking at adding laminate flooring to your home, its safety is going to be an important question – and you may have heard of laminate flooring being toxic. If so, you are probably feeling wary about having it in your home, especially if you have young children or pets, who may accidentally ingest chemicals from the floor after crawling or walking on it.
Nobody wants to think about a part of their home potentially being toxic, but it’s important to consider when you are selecting what kind of floor you want. If the idea of the floor being potentially dangerous alarms you, you may wish to avoid laminate flooring.
Is laminate floor toxic? The chemical of concern in laminate floors is formaldehyde. Although significantly less formaldehyde is used in laminate floors now, it may have health impacts in both the short and the long term. In the short term, it could cause breathing problems or irritation, and in the long term, it could slightly increase your risk of cancer.
Are Laminate Floors Potentially Toxic?
Some research has been done to indicate that laminate flooring releases formaldehyde gas, which could be toxic. It’s possible for this to be going on for as long as 10 years after the flooring has been laid. Laminate is made by binding wood particles using adhesives, and some of these are toxic to both people and animals.
This was more of a concern in the past but is still worth understanding. Modern regulations have made laminate flooring safer, and it is thought that the off-gassing as a result of the formaldehyde is lower than it used to be.
It is thought that all brands of laminate flooring contain formaldehyde, but they may not all pose a risk. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to know what kinds do and what kinds don’t. You should be very careful when choosing laminate flooring, although more modern kinds are less likely to contain concentrations of formaldehyde because there is more awareness of the risks.
There are other chemicals of concern in many kinds of laminate flooring, like aluminum oxide, which can cause asthma. However, aluminum oxide does need to be ingested in order to be dangerous to humans as far as we know, so this would not usually be a concern to individuals with laminate flooring.
That said, if you have a child or a pet on the floor, there is a risk that they will lick their hands or paws, and so ingest some aluminum oxide that way – which makes it reasonable to consider this as a potential risk.
Who Needs to Be Worried About Formaldehyde in Laminate Flooring?
Everyone should be concerned about the levels of formaldehyde in laminate flooring, but it is particularly worrying for individuals who suffer from other health conditions, have a family or personal history of cancer, or those who have breathing problems like asthma. People with young children and pets ought to be particularly worried about it.
Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen, and it is recognized by the US National Toxicology Program as a problematic chemical. The other chemicals could also be a cause for concern, especially if you are in any of the groups mentioned above.
If you have laminate floors in your home, you might want to keep your children and your pets away from it, especially if it was installed within the last 10 years. The toxicity will go down as the flooring ages, but it is still something that you need to be careful about.
Why Do Laminate Floors Contain Ammonia?
Some laminate floors have ammonia in them, and this is used as a “formaldehyde scavenger.” Its purpose is to reduce the levels of formaldehyde released by the floor, so if you know your laminate flooring has ammonia in it, you may feel less concerned about its toxicity.
How Can You Tell If Laminate Flooring Might Be Toxic?
If you are buying new laminate flooring, you might want to look out for the GreenGuard Gold Certificate. This certificate states that the flooring will not off-gas more than 0.0073 ppm formaldehyde. This is often lower than the level of outdoor formaldehyde in urban areas (which is between 0.0015 and 0.047 in most places).
To minimize the risks of your laminate flooring, check for brands that offer this certification, or ones that otherwise discuss the formaldehyde issue and give you ways to measure how safe their product is. Some of the brands that are certified include Duravana, Swiss Krono, and Shaw.
What Should You Do About Off-gassing?
Laminate floors are generally at their most dangerous when they are first installed, although they can continue to release fumes for years after their installation. There isn’t much you can do about this, but it’s a good idea to keep the room fully ventilated shortly after the floor has been laid.
You should open the windows and the doors, and avoid being in the room with them closed. This will help the room to vent and minimize the amount of formaldehyde gas that you come into contact with. Keep children and pets off the laminate floor, especially in the first few months.
Modern products off-gas much more quickly, so laminate flooring that has been laid in the last year or two may have already finished off-gassing, while laminates laid around 5 years ago could still be releasing chemicals.
Laminate flooring is considered useful for a whole range of purposes, but its toxicity has deterred many people from using it. If you want to use laminate but you aren’t sure whether it’s a good idea, you should choose a certified supplier, and do thorough research into the formaldehyde issue before deciding whether to lay it or not.
Laminate floor is a lot less toxic than it was in the past, but it should still be treated with some caution, as it does contain formaldehyde and some of this will be released as a gas. Look for certified suppliers to make sure your flooring is as safe as possible before you lay it.