Laminate flooring is made using adhesives and that is why it releases formaldehyde gas, which could be toxic to you, kids, and even pets. Most laminate products off-gas for about 10 years but some brands have a very low level of the toxic gas that is considered safe for flooring.
According to the CDC (Centre For Diseases Control and Prevention) and ATSDR (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry), exposure to formaldehyde could cause eyes, nose and throat problems.
It can also worsen health problems for those suffering from asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder.
Table of Contents
- Is Laminate Toxic?
- How laminate flooring is made?
- How to Reduce Toxicity Effects
- Should I remove my laminate flooring?
- But what is the toxicity in laminate flooring?
- Do All Laminate Flooring Contain Formaldehyde?
- Composition of Laminate Flooring?
- Areas Where Laminate is used
- How to reduce your exposure to formaldehyde?
Is Laminate Toxic?
Yes, laminate flooring is toxic. The laminate floor is made through wood-bonding adhesives that can be toxic to humans and animals. It consists of melamine resin formaldehyde, cyanuric acid, isocyanates, and aluminum oxide.
Below are some of the health problems caused by laminate raw materials:
- Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen. Formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen according to the US National Toxicology Program.
- Aluminum oxide causes asthma and known to reduce intelligence.
- Isocyanate is a potential carcinogen.
- Melamine and cyanuric acid can cause irreversible kidneys damage.
- The adhesive also contains formaldehyde: urea-formaldehyde UF, phenol-formaldehyde PF, and melamine-formaldehyde MF.
PF releases less amount of formaldehyde among the three. However, it’s more expensive, less popular, dark in color and has the highest processing requirements to cure.
UF emits the most toxic compound, less complicated to handle but has been put aside due to legal requirements.
MF is more used than PF although it emits more formaldehyde. The MF meets most of the new legal requirements and safety standards for flooring.
How laminate flooring is made?
Laminate flooring is one of the most popular and comparatively cheap floors. Its made from wood, paper, and resin bonded together by adhesives. Laminate flooring is known for its low maintenance and stain resistance.
However, unlike other floorings such as wood or natural tiles, it has poor insulation, low durability with a lifespan of about 15 years.
It is a multi-layer synthetic flooring product fused together through the lamination method. Sometimes. it is referred to as floating wood tile. This type of flooring consists of melamine resin and fiberboard materials. The formaldehyde is more tightly bound in melamine formaldehyde.
It is formed through subjecting the products to intensely high pressure, heat and binding chemicals and turning them to usable floor coverings.
How long does laminate flooring off-gas?
Laminate flooring emits gas for about 10 years. However, formaldehyde emissions decrease over time, making the floor less and less poisonous as it ages. Temperature changes, humidity, space for air circulation, and ventilation affect how much gas the floor releases.
Studies have shown that new flooring releases the highest amount of formaldehyde gases. The toxic levels reduce with time.
Pro tip: High temperatures increase the emissions and even cause laminate floors to expand and bend. You may want to keep your indoors cool especially during the summer season.
How to Reduce Toxicity Effects
CDC recommends the following for those who have already installed laminate flooring in their homes to reduce its toxicity:
- Open windows for a few minutes on a daily basis to let in the fresh air.
- Install and use exhaust fans in your house as much as possible.
- Make your home smoke free area. Tobacco smoke contains formaldehyde which may worsen the toxicity level in your home.
- Ensure your home temperature and humidity remain at low levels.
Symptoms you may experience
Formaldehyde exposure from the laminate floor may potentially cause adverse health and symptoms including eye, throat, skin, and nose irritation; allergic reactions, coughing, wheezing, etc.
High levels of exposure for a long time can cause cancer in human and lab animals.
Should I remove my laminate flooring?
Possibly you installed your laminate floor some years back. This may have already reduced toxicity levels in your home. In case you are having formaldehyde exposure, hiring a professional for air testing is a good idea for you. After the results, talk with the professional about the best possible steps to take.
Remember, removing especially new laminate flooring may increase even more the level of formaldehyde released, so consult with a professional before taking any action.
Consider getting your home tested only:
- If you smell strong chemical odors in your home
- If you have breathing problems and irritations trigger only when in your home
But what is the toxicity in laminate flooring?
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are toxic materials that are sometimes off-gassed from certain chemical flooring adhesives. Different laminate flooring adhesive is available with different levels of VOCs.
VOC levels determine the toxicity of the different laminate flooring depending on the adhesive used.
Is laminate flooring dangerous to your health?
Additionally, the formaldehyde emission levels in the indoor air may vary with respect to humidity, temperature, poor ventilation, and exchange rate within the indoor space. Understanding these factors may help reduce the exposure to formaldehyde in your home.
Do All Laminate Flooring Contain Formaldehyde?
Not entirely. A laminate floor is also made from melamine cyanuric, aluminum oxide and isocyanates. But are there safe laminate flooring even from the chemicals above? No there aren’t.
In all the laminate flooring, very strong adhesives are used to bond the fibers together in the laminate board. Therefore, no zero VOC or non-toxic laminate flooring that exists currently.
The chemicals have the following effects:
- Melamine and cyanuric acid: – can cause irreversible liver damage
- Aluminum oxide: – can cause asthma and reduced intelligence
- Isocyanates and formaldehyde: – potential carcinogenic
Formaldehyde is a colorless gas that gives a pickle-like smell. It has been used for decades in wood floorings, detergents, fabrics, wallpapers, and paints. Its uses came to limelight after “60 minutes” CBC news program highlighted that Lumber Liquidators was stocking and selling China laminate flooring (2012-2014) emitting formaldehyde with several times higher than California set standards.
Here is a list of laminate with formaldehyde?
The pressed wood products where strips, veneer, chips, fibers, and strands are bound together by glue contains formaldehyde. The pressed wood includes:
- Plywood: used for floors, subfloors, paneling, furniture, and other home products.
- Medium-density fiberboard (MDF boards): used in floors, cabinets, doors, and furniture.
- Particleboard: floors, floor underlays, countertops, shelving, and furniture.
- Other sources in your home that increases the level of formaldehyde: wallpapers, Permanent press fabrics, Smoke from tobacco, fireplace or gas stoves.
Below is a list of laminate flooring without formaldehyde
A good choice for non-formaldehyde would be floating laminate flooring that won’t require any adhesive. Pick the laminate printed with water-based ink and contains low on are non-VOCs. makes sure to puck non-VOCs and iso-cyanine free glue.
Research if the manufacturer off-gasses before shipping or selling to the suppliers at the factory. This will help protect air quality at your house. Confirm with the suppliers on the cleaning methods; if require harsh chemicals for sealing and cleaning up or just typical dry mopping and wet mopping will do.
Tip: Be aware most laminate (with more than 0.01 parts per million) of urea-formaldehyde are usually inexpensive with toxic resin use as the bidder. Look out for these words; NAF (means no added formaldehyde), NAUF (means no added urea formaldehyde), or ULEF (means ultra low-emitting formaldehyde)
Composition of Laminate Flooring?
Laminate flooring is made from multiple layers to mimic natural stone or wood. The top layer is made from a high definition photograph of your chosen effect. The photograph is well-detailed to look as authentic as possible.
The top layer is covered with a transparent protective surface that deals with daily wear and tears. Some laminate flooring planks are water and scratch-resistant.
The inner core is made from high-density fiberboard which helps to give the flooring structure as well as prevent it from cupping or bowing when being installed.
The current laminate flooring planks are manufactured such that one may mistake it with real stone, wood or bamboo flooring. For installation, they are manufactured such that any home renovator may install them without hiring a professional floor fitter.
Areas Where Laminate is used
Laminate flooring may be used in living rooms, dining rooms, hallways, conservatory, bedrooms, and kitchen
However, it is not recommended for areas with high moisture content like bathrooms irrespective of their durability. In other areas, laminate flooring may be installed with sound-reducing underlay.
It is stable enough to be used together with underfloor heating. However, it may require careful gradual temperature increase over a period of days for the first use of after staying for long without using it.
What is the total non-toxic flooring option?
You may consider the following flooring as your totally safe flooring option for your home. Here are formaldehyde-free flooring:
- Real Wood: Real wood is a naturally durable and elegant flooring material. It’s naturally sustainable and free of formaldehyde.
- Tiles: Tiles made of natural concurring materials like glass, that has been synthetically produced with zero damage to the environment. They are usually made free of formaldehyde.
- Cork: Its absolute renewable resource, harvested on the bark of a living tree. It is natural and free of formaldehyde.
- Polished Concrete, porcelain, and ceramic: These floorings are safe if lead-free and free from radioactive materials. Read the instructions before buying on your package, however, there are usually formaldehyde-free.
- Bamboo: It is a great ecofriendly formaldehyde-free flooring. It has one of the greatest qualities and ability to regenerate quickly. Choose this green flooring you won’t regret.
- Natural Carpets: Natural carpets are free from formaldehyde. Pick a natural non-toxic chemical-free carpet: made of wool, natural latex, and dyes with no mothproofing, no stain repellant and non-toxic padding.
- Palm: Just like bamboo, it’s another highly sustainable flooring material. It grows fast and free from formaldehyde.
How to reduce your exposure to formaldehyde?
The toxicity level of laminate flooring is reduced with time. In addition, not all laminate flooring releases high levels of formaldehyde. The high concern comes with new laminate flooring.
- Routinely opening windows to allow fresh air in.
- Avoiding smoking in your home it may increase formaldehyde exposure.
- Keeping humidity and temperature low in your home
- Using exhaust fans in your home
- Selecting furniture without urea formaldehyde
- Using and installing insulation in your house that does not have urea-formaldehyde foam
- Choosing products with NO VOC/Low VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) label for your home
Sources and References
- CDC: Health problems associated with Laminate flooring?
- Consumer report: Liquidator stops selling China laminate?
- California Environmental Protection Agency: Reducing formaldehyde questions for composite wood?
- EPA: Formadyhyde Standards? California Air Resources Board (CARB) Airborne Toxic Control Measures (ATCM)?
- NICNAS: Occupational Standards?
- Classlawgroup: Lumber Liquidators Class Action Lawsuit-Settlement?