Can vinyl flooring expose kids to hazardous substances?

Vinyl flooring in daycare centres and schools may be exposing kids to a group of compounds called phthalates, cautions a new research.

According to experts, softened polyvinyl chloride (PVC), also known as vinyl that contains phthalates is widely used in flooring materials. Apparently, phthalates are substances suspected to cause asthma and allergies in kids and have also been linked to reproductive and developmental problems.

Phthalates, a group of chemical compounds that increase flexibility and durability of PVC are key components in a great number of consumer goods such as vinyl flooring and a great number of consumer goods such as toys, cleaning solvents, packaging, medical devices, cosmetics etc.

In what is cause for grave concern is that these additives filter out of products into the air and dust and can pose a potential health risk to infants and children. Kids can ingest these softening agents via indoor dust by breathing and through the skin.

Details of the study
In a bid to determine what products add to indoor phthalate levels Chunksik Yoon and his team from Seoul National Univ carried out a study. With the help of a portable gadget called X-ray fluorescence (XRF) analyzer, they tested the flooring materials for PVC levels from 64 classrooms located in 50 public and private daycare centres and kindergartens in Seoul, South Korea.

In addition, they accumulated dust samples from diverse surfaces in the buildings for analysis.
The scientists found di-n-butyl phthalate (DBP), di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), and di-isononyl phthalate (DINP). However, the PVC-verified flooring was a key source of the most common phthalate identified, called di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (known as DEHP).

“This is the first study to verify the sources of phthalates with an XRF analyzer and to evaluate the relationship between phthalate concentrations and PVC-verified materials,” the scientists state.

The findings are published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

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