Phthalates and Home Improvement Products

  • Phthalates are commonly used in vinyl building materials like flooring and wall coverings to make them flexible and durable.

  • Phthalates are tightly bound in the structure of the vinyl. This fact, together with their low vapor pressure, contributes to their long service life to keep products flexible. Phthalates are specifically chosen as plasticizers because they are resistant to extraction, evaporation and migration.

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) routinely conducts biomonitoring for the common phthalates to determine the extent of exposure among the general population. The CDC data indicate that, while metabolites of several phthalates are found in the majority of people measured, the levels found are well-below levels deemed to be safe by regulatory authorities in the U.S. and Europe.

  • There is no scientific—or for that matter logical basis—to compare phthalate exposures from vinyl flooring or wallpaper to exposure from children’s toys, where it is assumed that the toys are chewed and/or sucked for extended periods of time. Even the most extreme assumptions about phthalate exposure from vinyl flooring predict levels that are hundreds to thousands of times below those considered safe by regulatory authorities.

  • Available evidence from testing with laboratory animals indicates that phthalates do not trigger an immune or respiratory response—in sharp contrast to suggestions that phthalate exposure may contribute to asthma. These suggestions are based on anecdotal evidence, where the presence of phthalates is implied and not actually measured. In fact, CDC concludes that asthma incidence among children has been “relatively stable” since the mid-1990s—despite an increase, since that time, in the use of flooring and wall covering products made with flexible vinyl.

  • In a small study of levels in household dust of one phthalate, DEHP, researchers were unable to find a correlation with phthalate metabolite levels in the children living in the households. This study suggests that significant exposure to phthalates is unlikely from typical household products such as flooring and wallpaper.

» learn more about building and construction products made with phthalates