Vinyl flooring may look great and that new sofa may be chic, but how safe are they and what impact could they have on you and your family’s health?

If you’re thinking about giving your home a makeover, be careful about the type of flooring and sofas you invest in.

A new Duke University-led study found that children living in homes with all vinyl flooring or flame-retardant chemicals in the sofa have significantly higher concentrations of potentially harmful semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs) in their blood or urine than children from homes where these materials are not present.

Young children have a greater risk of exposure

“SVOCs are widely used in electronics, furniture and building materials and can be detected in nearly all indoor environments,” says Heather Stapleton, an environmental chemist at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment, who led the research.

Children living in homes with all vinyl flooring or flame-retardant chemicals in the sofa have significantly higher concentrations of potentially harmful semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs) in their blood or urine…

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“Human exposure to them is widespread, particularly for young children who spend most of their time indoors and have greater exposure to chemicals found in household dust.”

The danger of flame-retardant chemicals in sofas

They found that children living in homes where the sofa in the main living area contained flame-retardant polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) in its foam had a six-fold higher concentration of PBDEs in their blood serum.

Exposure to PBDEs has been linked in laboratory tests to neurodevelopmental delays, obesity, endocrine and thyroid disruption, cancer and other diseases.

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The danger of vinyl flooring

Children from homes that had vinyl flooring in all areas were found to have concentrations of benzyl butyl phthalate metabolite in their urine that were 15 times higher than those in children living with no vinyl flooring.

Benzyl butyl phthalate has been linked to respiratory disorders, skin irritations, multiple myeolma and reproductive disorders.

Over 200 children studied

Since there has been little research on the relative contribution of specific products and materials to children’s overall exposure to SVOCs, in 2014 Stapleton and colleagues from Duke, the Centres for Disease Control & Prevention, and Boston University began a three-year study of in-home exposures to SVOCs among 203 children from 190 families.

“Our primary goal was to investigate links between specific products and children’s exposures, and to determine how the exposure happened – was it through breathing, skin contact or inadvertent dust inhalation,” says Stapleton.

To that end, the team analysed samples of indoor air, indoor dust and foam collected from furniture in each of the children’s homes, along with a hand wipe sample, urine and blood from each child.

“We quantified 44 biomarkers of exposure to phthalates, organophosphate esters, brominated flame retardants, parabens, phenols, antibacterial agents and perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS),” says Stapleton.

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Source: Duke University via www.sciencedaily.com