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Flooring Myths Busted

Flooring Myths Busted

By Susan Bahl – Natural Home Design

In the 80's I had heard stories of persons that couldn't be around certain chemicals in their interior environment, but I always thought that it was "all in their head", then in 1989 I had a severe reaction to synthetic carpet that we had installed in our home and realized that I was now among those "Environmentally Sensitive" individuals.

Because of this "awakening" my husband and I started a floorcovering store, that specialized in true linoleum, wool carpet, cork flooring. We educated our clients on the dangers of synthetic carpet, toxic glues and the formaldehyde carpet pad. We became one of the first stores in the U.S. talking about health. In 1990 I use to say to my clients " I'm sure that there will be 100's of stores like ours in ten years!"

There's fact there are few. Even the so-called "green" stores have products that are not health supportive. And after 23 years things are about the same, maybe a little worse.

What happened? Big money, heavily financed marketing campaigns that spew lies and semi-truths. 

There is a book called Exposed by Mark Shapiro that does very good investigative reporting that I would recommend. American's have no one protecting their buying choices or any organization overviewing the chemical compounds used in our everyday products.  For example, when we first began this journey, the E.P.A. installed glue-down synthetic carpet in their main headquarters and 8 people were rushed by ambulance to the hospital because of severe toxic reaction to the chemicals. We have grown up with slogans such as "Better Living Through Chemistry". " Dupont Stain Master Carpet"  "GE brings good things to life". These are examples of marketing campaigns that become almost truths, but are not. There are many myths that we live with and there are many that we have bought hook, line and sinker, as the saying goes. Here' a few. 

Myth: Wool carpet is too expensive and stains and doesn't wear well in high traffic areas.
Truth: Wool carpet lasts 25 years, is compostable (great carbon footprint) and it's unique microscopic fiber allows for the spills to puddle and be wiped up without using dangerous stain-repellents. Its unique tensile strength allows it to expand and contract up to 10 times its length. Wool is the standard that synthetic carpet has been trying to match. (go to my blog to get more information on wool carpet)

Myth: Installing synthetic (plastic) carpet will off-gas for 72 hrs and then it will be fine.
Truth: Synthetic carpet and the underpad used has hundreds of chemicals used in the production, styrene-butedyne as an adhesive, stain-repellent, (a proven mutigen) and the pad is pure formaldahyde.  How long it takes to gas off?  Who can say?  If you have little one's, why take the chance? 

Myth: Laminate flooring is a cheap way to get a "good looking"'s all we can afford.
Truth: Laminate flooring is particle board with a picture glued on and a layer of PVC. PVC is a hormone disruptor. This means the dust particles given off by PVC products disrupt all endocrine systems. The new ages for girls to begin menstruation is 9 to 12. The doctors say because of hormone chemical disruptive chemicals in our environment. Laminated flooring does not go away. It is plastic that will go to our landfill and never decompose. So what is cheap about that?

Myth: "A good environmental choice is recycled carpet".
Truth: Plastic recycled pop bottles is a band-aid solution. Let's look at it from climate protection/carbon footprint perspective. Pop bottles are transported to a facility, melted, 1000's of gallons of water used that pollutes the river and people living downstream. The amount of poisons that goes into the air from this manufacturing has not been measured, nor the amount of fuel it takes to melt the pop bottles. Add to this, stain-repellent AND you get an inferior fiber called polyester. Polyester should not be used in floorcovering because it crushes, pills, and stains. I have seen this product go into Leed certified buildings because it meets the recycled criteria in their point system. Note: Recycled content is about 20%, the rest is new petroleum.

Myth: Bamboo is a good environmental choice.
Truth: Bamboo flooring comes from China. It is slivers of bamboo glued together with toxic glue. The workers in China are not protected from breathing this when they are manufacturing. As far as a consumer aspect, it does dent because the slivers are soft. The super cheap bamboo is cut green leaving high moisture content in the bamboo to cause boards to warp.  Don't buy bamboo on-line or from big box. Buy a bamboo flooring only from reputable dealerships and don't put in high traffic area's and you should be fine. I think you would be happier with cork flooring. 


Susan Bahl started in 1998 Natural Home Design ( to carry on the mission of consulting and designing interiors that are healthy and beautiful, She has just birthed Keystone Green 5833 Redwood Dr. Rohnert Park that will be a  non-profit education co-operative to bring the support to professionals such as builders, realtors, designers. and any individuals dealing with health issues.  She hopes to educate the schools and medical practices and continue to provide the best products for anyone wanting to support their healthy lifestyle.