Parental Warning: Harmful Chemicals in Vinyl Floors, Furniture

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Researchers say vinyl flooring and sofas with flame retardants can present a health risk to children.

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Experts say linoleum is a safer alternative than vinyl flooring. Getty Images

When considering the dangers some chemicals can present to children’s health, we’re usually concerned with pesticides and air pollution.

But what do we do when the danger is part of our homes?

A recent study found that certain semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs) in furniture and flooring can present a health risk to children.

Researchers say that children in homes with sofas containing flame-retardant chemicals called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) in the cushions had a sixfold higher concentration of this substance in their blood.

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Exposure to PBDEs has been associated with:

  • neurodevelopmental delays
  • obesity
  • endocrine and thyroid disruption
  • cancer

“The goal of our study was to understand the role that specific products or building materials have in children’s exposure to chemicals that are potentially hazardous or toxic,” Heather Stapleton, PhD, deputy director of the Duke Superfund Research Center and lead study author, told Healthline.

The recent study also looked at 18 children who lived in public assistance homes where all of the flooring was vinyl. The children all showed phthalate metabolite levels in their urine that were 15 times higher than children living in homes without any vinyl flooring, researchers reported.

“Phthalate exposure in children has been linked with increased airway inflammation and raises concerns about the impact of these exposures on children with asthma,” Dr. Stapleton said.

A U.S. Consumer Safety Product Commission (USCSPC) memo states that benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP) has been linked to asthma, eczema, multiple myeloma, and reproductive disorders.

The findings were presented February 17 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C.