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Question from Hal

Hi Debra,

We’re considering laminate flooring but are also concerned about formaldehyde.

However, “Quick-Step Impressive Ultra” by Pergo quotes an emission value of “less than 0.01 ppm” in their datasheet and is Nordic Swan ecolabelled here in the Scandinavian countries. This is vastly less than the E1 standard of “less than 0.1 ppm” and I hope should make a difference.

I know you don’t recommend laminate in general, but as this seems to be our best alternative for flooring, would you consider it “safe”, or should we rule it out in your opinion?

I’ve also read that having certain plants and airing regularly will help.

Debra’s Answer

One of the difficulties in choosing toxic-free products is determining exactly what is a toxic exposure.

Chemicals, such as formaldehyde, have an inherent toxicity that has been established by the field of toxicology.

But there’s another factor in real life and that is the ability of the person exposed to tolerate the level of exposure. Put a healthy adult man, an adult woman, a senior, a baby, and a person with MCS in a room with this flooring and each of their bodies will respond differently.

It’s difficult for me to make a general recommendation in a situation like this which is borderline.

So here’s what I’ll say.

I wouldn’t put it in my house. I know from personal experience that formaldehyde is one of the major chemicals that make otherwise healthy people into people who are sensitive to all petrochemicals. I’ve seen this over and over. So I just wouldn’t go there. That’s why. It’s just on my personal NO list in big red letters.

Formaldehyde also causes cancer.

And regardless of what studies say, the leading edge of medicine is now acknowledging that you can do all the studies you want, but it all comes down to the individual body and it’s own unique characteristics and environment.

A few nights ago I realized something, after 40 years in this field. I realized that we know some products are outright poisons. But instead of banning them, our society put warning labels on them and established poison control centers to help people who are poisoned. And then we found out that some products—like cigarettes—cause cancer and other illnesses after many years of use. Again, warning labels.

And now there are certifications that say oh it’s OK to use these products because they are “low-emissions.” NO. Low-emissions means there ARE emissions. Emissions can build up in a space into high concentrations.

For me, personally, I will go to any trouble and any cost to have a formaldehyde-free floor. But that’s my choice and priority.

You may decide it’s OK to have a floor that has less formaldehyde. It’s certainly better than a floor with high formaldehyde emissions.

I’ll get off my soapbox now.

About the plants, it actually requires quite a number of plants to do much good.

It’s always better to reduce emissions at the source, rather than relying on plants or even air filters to do the job of removing pollutants from the air pm a regular basis. I’m not saying don’t use filters or plants, I’m saying that it’s more effective to reduce pollutants at the source if you have the option to do that.

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