There is a new awareness among consumers that the products they put into the interiors of their homes may affect their health and comfort. Consumers may experience unexpected and unpleasant odors due to the emissions of chemicals to indoor air. This type of indoor air quality (IAQ) pollution affects comfort and leads to concerns that the causes of odor may be unhealthy. There also are chemicals of concern that may be emitted from products that do not produce noticeable odors. Consumers read about these in news stories and in a variety of articles in print and online.
For example, formaldehyde emissions from wood-based products have been part of the public consciousness for years. Government as stepped in to address the concern about formaldehyde by regulating the emissions of formaldehyde from pressed woods used as core materials in products such as cabinetry, flooring and furniture. California (CA) first implemented regulations limiting formaldehyde emissions from composite woods in 2010 and now similar measures are being adopted by the U.S. EPA as a national regulation.
Flooring manufacturers have been at the forefront of addressing IAQ concerns related to their products. The first program was developed by the carpet industry around 1990 to combat concerns stemming from unpleasant “new-carpet” odor. The labeling program set limits for the emissions of total volatile organic compounds (TVOC), formaldehyde and the specific odorous chemical. Manufacturers wishing to apply the “Green Label” to their products submitted samples on a periodic schedule to a laboratory for environmental chamber testing of volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions to show compliance.
Today, the state of the science has progressed significantly and VOC emission testing is commonplace particularly for interior products used in commercial and public buildings. Carpets have a more advanced labeling system called “Green Label Plus.” The resilient flooring industry consisting of manufacturers of vinyl flooring, linoleum, rubber flooring, laminates and flooring accessories has developed their own testing and labeling program. This FloorScore certification program is set up as a true third-party system with an independent certification body and independent laboratories.
Representative samples of the products are tested for VOC emissions on a regular basis following the CA Section 01350 protocol. This protocol tests for the emissions of a number of individual VOCs of concern including formaldehyde and has health based guidelines that are designed to protect the general population. Due to the success of the resilient flooring and carpet programs, consumers now can select from a wide range of certified products for installation in their homes.