A Damning Report: ‘Flooring’s Dirty Climate Secret’ (Yes, It's About Vinyl Flooring)

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As a follow-up to my article about “What I’ve Learned as an Inspector for ‘Luxury Vinyl’ Flooring”, I would like everyone to know about a report that was done about this same flooring.

The 48-page document assembled by CEH (Center for Environmental Health) is titled “Flooring’s Dirty Climate Secret: Quantifying Carbon Dioxide Emissions and Toxic Chemicals Used in Vinyl Flooring Manufacturing.” This is a must-read for all of us in the flooring industry. You can go here to read it yourself.

It was researched and written by multiple authors who did an exhaustive study of the issues and delved into the practices of manufacturers both in the U.S. and abroad. Some of the key takeaways include:

• Chemicals such as mercury, asbestos, Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS), also known as “forever chemicals” are widely used in the production of PVC (poly vinyl chloride). 

• Everyone should know that PVC is made from fossil fuels in all its iterations. Most of the vinyl flooring production has shifted to China, where the plants still burn coal day in and day out. The largest vinyl plant in the U.S. is located in Texas, and it runs on natural gas obtained from fracking. 

• The long-term damage to the planet's environment almost pales in comparison to the damage being done in the local community to the hands-on workers and the people living on what is called the “fenceline”—those who are very near the manufacturing facility and exposed to the invisible danger inherent in that proximity. This is especially true in Yibin, China, where a mid-size coal-burning vinyl plant is located.

• While asbestos has been largely phased out of use in the U.S. because it is a known carcinogen, the U.S. government still allows the chlor-alkali industry to continue to use asbestos membranes to produce chlorine, a key component in the manufacture of vinyl. 

It is time to spread the word. If someone wants a product that looks like wood, sell wood! If you want an environmentally friendly and renewable flooring product, consider wood. There are no vinyl trees out there.

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