PVC Flooring & Toxic Cleaning Products in Schools


 

PVC flooring often requires the use of toxic cleaners to keep it durable and shiny. This wax and strip maintenance has long been a source of health concern due to the toxic VOCs such as formaldehyde (a known carcinogen) used in the maintenance products. A life cycle study of flooring installation and maintenance found that the amount of VOCs emitted from a single waxing of a floor may be comparable to the amount of VOCs emitted from the flooring itself over its entire life. While some PVC manufacturers have formulated “no wax” finishes for some of their flooring products, many PVC flooring products still require the use of toxic maintenance products. i

Toxic Cleaning Products Threaten Students, Teachers and Janitor’s Health

Consider just some of these alarming statistics about toxic cleaning products used in schools:

Children More At Risk from Toxic Chemicals

Children are not "little adults" - their developing brains and bodies, their metabolism and behaviors make them uniquely vulnerable to harm from toxic chemicals such as those released by the PVC life-cycle:

Hazardous Chemicals of Concern in PVC Cleaning Products

The following is a summary of hazardous chemicals of concern typically used to clean PVC flooring in schools. Note - these chemicals are often but not always found in cleaning products used on PVC in schools (depending on the chemical formulation of the product).

Products iv

Chemicals of Concern v

Health Hazards vi, vii, viii, ix

Baseboard Cleaner

Diethylene Glycol Butyl Ether

Suspected cardiovascular, kidney, neurological and reproductive toxicant

Baseboard Cleaner

Potassium Hydroxide

Skin or sense organ toxicant

Floor Finish

Ethylene Glycol

Recognized carcinogen, suspected gastrointestinal or liver, im-mune system, central nervous system, reproductive respira-tory and skin or sense organ toxicant, asthmagen

Floor Finish

Formaldehyde

Recognized carcinogen, suspected gastrointestinal or liver, im-mune system, central nervous system, reproductive respira-tory and skin or sense organ toxicant, asthmagen x

Floor Finish

Styrene

Suspected carcinogen, cardiovascular, endocrine, developmental, gastrointestinal, immunological, kidney, central nervous system, reproductive, respiratory and skin and sense organ toxicant, asthmagen xi

Floor Finish

Tributoxyethyl Phos-phate

May cause nervous system effects such as ataxia, breathing abnormalities and tremors with prolonged or repeated contact2

Floor Finish

Zinc

Suspected cardiovascular, developmental, immune system, reproductive, respiratory and skin or sense organ toxicant

Floor Finish and Gloss Restorer

Dipropylene glycol Monomethyl ether

Suspected kidney, central nervous system and reproductive system toxicant

Floor Finish and Spray Buff

Dipropylene glycol Monomethyl ether

Suspected cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, kidney, liver and central nervous system toxicant

Floor Stripper

Ethanolamine

Absorbed through the skin; suspected skin and sense organ and immunotoxicant, eyes and respiratory irritant, asthmagen xii,xiii

Floor Stripper

Naphthalene

Recognized carcinogen, suspected respiratory, cardiovascular, developmental, gastrointestinal, skin and sense organ and cen-tral nervous system toxicant

Floor Stripper

Sodium Hydroxide (lye)

Caustic, contact burns eyes and skin, ingestion damages sto-mach and esophagus.xiv Suspected respiratory and skin or sense organ toxicant

Floor Stripper and Baseboard Cleaner

2-butoxyethanol

Suspected human carcinogen, cardiovascular, developmental, endocrine, gastrointestinal or liver, kidney, central nervous system, reproductive, respiratory and skin or sense organ toxicant. Absorbed through the skin xv

Floor Stripper and Baseboard Cleaner

Isobutane

Suspected neurotoxicant

Floor Stripper and Baseboard Cleaner

Monoethanolamine

Hormone disrupting chemical that can form cancer-causing ni-trates Use with caution Restricted in Europe due to carcinogenic effects. Asthmagen xvi,xvii

Floor Stripper and Finish

Ammonia

Suspected gastrointestinal, central nervous system, and skin or sense organ toxicant. Forms toxic gas when mixed with bleach xviii,xix

Floor Stripper and Floor Finish

Diethyl Phthalate

Suspected endocrine disruptor, reproductive, developmental, central nervous system and kidney toxicant

Floor Stripper, Floor Finish, and Spray Buff

Diethyl Phthalate

Suspected developmental, endocrine, gastrointestinal or liver, kidney, immune system, central nervous system, reproduc-tive, skin or sense organ toxicant

Floor Stripper, Floor Finish, and Spray Buff

Alkylphenol Ethoxylates (APEs), Ethoxylated nonyl phenols (NPEs) Nonyl phenol ethoxylates

Suspected endocrine toxicant, toxic to aquatic organisms xx

Shineline Floor Prep

Phosphoric Acid

Corrosive to skin and eyes. Suspected central nervous system, respiratory, and skin or sense organ toxicant

Spray Buff

Aliphatic petroleum distillates

Respiratory system, gastrointestinal and eye and skin irritant xxi


PVC Flooring is More Expensive Due to Toxic Cleaning Products

While PVC flooring is typically cheaper up-front than other alternatives, over the lifecycle of the product PVC flooring is significantly more expensive due to the toxic cleaning products and strippers used to maintain the flooring. Additionally – PVC flooring often doesn’t last as long as other flooring materials. This combined with PVC’s higher-maintenance costs make it one of the most expensive flooring options on a life-cycle basis. Safer cost-effective alternatives include natural cork, traditional linoleum, synthetic rubber, and non-chlorinated polymers. According to an analysis by researchers at Tufts University, cork, linoleum, rubber, and non-chlorinated Stratica are all cheaper than PVC flooring over its lifecycle (see table below).xxii


Life Cycle Costs of Flooring (per square foot)xiii

Click table image to enlarge


Safer Alternatives to PVC flooring in Schools

Safer cost-effective alternatives are readily available. When using these products, we encourage schools to use third-party certified green cleaning products.

 

What Can I Do? Take Action for Healthy PVC-Free Schools

Safer and cost-effective alternatives are already available for PVC flooring in our nation’s schools. Here’s how you can help today:

Resources to Learn More about Green Cleaning

 

References

i Lent, T., Silas, J. and Vallette, J. 2009. Resilient flooring & chemical hazards – a comparative analysis of vinyl and other alternatives to health care. Arlington, VA: Health Care Without Harm. Online: http://www.healthybuilding.net/docs/HBN-ResilientFlooring&ChemicalHazards-Report.pdf (20 October 2009).

ii INFORM. 2006. Frequently asked questions: cleaning for health. NY, NY. Online: http://www.informinc.org/cfhfaq.pdf (22 October 2009).

iii Landrigan, P. et al. Children's health and the environment: a new agenda for preventive research. Environmental Health Perspectives June 1998.

iv Information compiled from Informed Green Solutions, INFORM, MSDS sheets, Janitorial Pollution Prevention Project, and Green Seal.

v Information compiled from Informed Green Solutions, INFORM, MSDS sheets, Janitorial Pollution Prevention Project, and Green Seal.

vi Environmental Defense. “Scorecard – human hazards, chemical profiles.” Online: www.scorecard.org (22 October 2009).

vii Green Seal. Online: http://www.greenseal.org (22 October 2009).

viii Janitorial Products Pollution Prevention Project. Online: http://www.wrppn.org/Janitorial/jp4.cfm (22 October 2009). ix U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Household products database.” Online: http://householdproducts.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/household/brands?tbl=brands&id=5021 (22 October 2009).http://www.acereport.org/oxy3.html (21 October 2009).

x Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics. “Exposure code list.” Online: http://www.aoecdata.org/ExpCodeLookup.aspx (22 October 2009).

xi Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics. “Exposure code list.” Online: http://www.aoecdata.org/ExpCodeLookup.aspx (22 October 2009).

xii Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics. “Exposure code list.” Online: http://www.aoecdata.org/ExpCodeLookup.aspx (22 October 2009).

xiiiSavonious, B. et al. 1994. Occupational asthma caused by ethanolamines. Allergy 1994; 49:877-88 Online: http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/119269139/abstract?CRETRY=1&SRETRY=0 (22 October 2009).

xivManufacturer MSDS – available at http://www.msdsonline.com

xv EXTOXNET. Online: http://pmep.cce.cornell.edu/profiles/extoxnet/pyrethrins-ziram/tributyltin-ext.html (22 Oc-tober 2009).

xvi Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics. “Exposure code list.” Online: http://www.aoecdata.org/ExpCodeLookup.aspx (22 October 2009).

xvii Savonious, B. et al. 1994. Occupational asthma caused by ethanolamines. Allergy 1994; 49:877-88 Online: http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/119269139/abstract?CRETRY=1&SRETRY=0 (22 October 2009).

xviii U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health. “MedLine plus – sodium hypochlorite poisoning.” Online: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002488.htm (22 October 2009).

xix Hughes, J., Hathaway, G. and Proctor, N.. 1996. Proctor and Hughes' chemical hazards of the workplace Wiley.

xx U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “Key characteristics of laundry detergent ingredients.” Online: http://www.epa.gov/dfe/pubs/laundry/techfact/keychar.htm (22 October 2009).

xxi Manufacturer MSDS – available at http://www.msdsonline.com

xxii Ackerman F. and R. Massey. 2006. The economics of phasing out PVC. Somerville, MA: Global Development and Environment Institute, Tufts University. Online: http://www.ase.tufts.edu/gdae/Pubs/rp/Economics_of_PVC_revised.pdf (22 October 2009).

xxiii Ackerman F. and R. Massey. 2006. The economics of phasing out PVC. Somerville, MA: Global Development and Environment Institute, Tufts University. Online: http://www.ase.tufts.edu/gdae/Pubs/rp/Economics_of_PVC_revised.pdf (22 October 2009).

xxiv Ackerman F. and R. Massey. 2006. The economics of phasing out PVC. Somerville, MA: Global Development and Environment Institute, Tufts University. Online: http://www.ase.tufts.edu/gdae/Pubs/rp/Economics_of_PVC_revised.pdf (22 October 2009).