The Dangers of Luxury Vinyl Tiles and Why You Should Avoid Them

Luxury vinyl tile, or LVT, has skyrocketed in popularity in recent years. Though it has been on the market for a while, its sudden desirability comes in part from its affordable cost and interesting appearance. It tends to be lower-maintenance on a daily basis than hardwood flooring, tile or other flooring options like laminate, it’s water-resistant, and it’s customizable to whichever look you’re going for in your home. But this type of flooring poses a number of serious health risks that greatly outweigh the positives that it offers.

What is Luxury Vinyl Tile Flooring?

LVT is largely made up of polyvinyl chloride, or PVC. While we now have regulations against the use of harmful materials in everyday items, like BPA in bottles or lead in paint, the same cannot be said for the use of PVC and other toxic chemical compounds in flooring materials. Numerous tests have shown that PVC is toxic, but what exactly does that mean? And how can it make your flooring dangerous?

Is LVT it really that dangerous?

Polyvinyl chloride is a known carcinogen and contains health and environmental toxins such as dioxin and phthalates. While dioxin is generally only released when exposed to heat, such as during the manufacturing process or if next to a radiator or fireplace in the home, and therefore poses a lesser threat to you and your family’s health, the phthalates in the flooring can become a significant problem. While many phthalates have regulations prohibiting them from inclusion in things like children’s toys, there are no current regulations banning or even limiting their use in vinyl flooring.

Although the CDC reports that over 90% of Americans already have measurable levels of phthalates in their bodies from various sources, the chemicals still pose a risk to developing children. Studies have shown that phthalates can cause learning and developmental disabilities in children if exposed at high enough levels. They can also affect the endocrine system, causing changes to hormone cell signal pathways, which means disruptions in reproductive health. Some phthalates are even known to be cancer-causing. Luxury vinyl flooring emits these toxins, and especially in a smaller, less-ventilated area of the home, the buildup will be more severe due to the size of the space and the lack of ventilation.

What is LVT made of?

Lots of LVT flooring utilizes recycled vinyl materials from older homes. Typically, recycling and reusing materials is a good thing, however, in older homes, materials that we now know to be toxic were frequently used, such as asbestos. Flooring materials pre-1990s often contained asbestos, so materials from earlier than 1990 should not be used in recycled flooring product, but often are. This adds an additional risk to using recycled LVT flooring, as a number of national brands have not taken steps to ensure that their products are asbestos-free, nor have they guaranteed that their flooring does not contain phthalates.

There are currently no safe, environmentally friendly ways of disposing of LVT flooring, as it is not biodegradable. LVT is burned when it is disposed of, exuding huge amounts of toxins in the process–much more than are released through everyday exposure in a home. There still isn’t even quite enough research and testing on luxury vinyl flooring and PVC itself to fully understand its toxicity or the short and long-term effects on humans and the environment, but the aforementioned dangers that have been found out so far are concerning enough.

So is LVT really worth it for your home?

LVT flooring may seem like an attractive option to a number of buyers who are unaware of these hazards, but the supposed pros have other caveats besides its toxicity. While luxury vinyl flooring relies on water resistance as its shining quality, its photographic layer will scratch, and that scratch cannot be buffed or sanded out.

You will have to replace entire pieces to repair any scratches. Vinyl flooring is also susceptible to heat damage from sun exposure. Sections of the flooring that are exposed to sunlight throughout the day will warp and start to buckle at the seams between boards. These issues are well-documented by luxury vinyl flooring users and are not worth the headache of having to replace entire sections of your flooring constantly.

With its negative health and environmental effects and demanding upkeep, luxury vinyl flooring is not worth the savings. Do your home, your family, and the planet a favor and make the investment in quality wood flooring.

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