Is Laminate Wood Flooring Toxic?

Laminate flooring is different from linoleum and PVC flooring, incorporating layers of paper, wood and resin. It is comparatively cheap, especially to natural tile or wood floors, and is hailed as low maintenance and stain resistant. However, laminate flooring has poor insulation, as well as low durability, with a useful life averaging 15 years. And some varieties of laminate flooring also release considerable amounts of formaldehyde gasses, making them quite toxic.

Man installing flooring
credit: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images
Unfortunately, some types of flooring can be hazardous to your health.

Composition

Man Installing New Laminate Wood Flooring
credit: Andy Dean/iStock/Getty Images
The formaldehyde content of laminate flooring is usually found in the sealers used.

A high quality laminate flooring should consist of 20 percent synthetic material and adhesives and 80 percent wood and paper. Layers of paper and wood comprise the center of the material, while a clear, stamped or printed coat of resin rests on top. The bottom is a layer of water-repelling material. The layers are bonded together with high heat, sealers, and pressure. The formaldehyde content of laminate flooring is usually found in the sealers used.

Installation

Floor installation
credit: Ingvald kaldhussæter/iStock/Getty Images
Laminate flooring has become exceptionally popular due to the fact that, in many installations, it can be put down without even using adhesives.

Laminate flooring has become exceptionally popular due to the fact that, in many installations, it can be put down without even using adhesives. As some traditional floor adhesives are toxic in nature or are carcinogens, this fact has some broad appeal.

Emissions

Newly Installed Brown Laminate Flooring and Baseboards in Home
credit: Feverpitched/iStock/Getty Images
Emissions

Formaldehyde and other toxic substances are used in the manufacture of laminate flooring. The World Health Organization's suggested cap for formaldehyde emissions rests at 0.042 ppm; formaldehyde emissions released by laminate flooring can exceed 0.1 ppm.

Alternatives

Cork
credit: spinout/iStock/Getty Images
Alternatives

Low or zero-emission laminate floors can be found, and a variety of cheap, long-lasting substitutes are already on the market. Natural cork is an easy replacement to laminate flooring and comes with the bonus of acoustic insulation. Natural linoleum floors are also available and are made from a mixture of organic and inorganic components such as linseed oil, pine resin, cork, clay and chalk.

Cautions

Woman with a laptop computer
credit: Pixland/Pixland/Getty Images
Research the potential health concerns of any new flooring before making the commitment to install it in your home.

Many types of flooring have similar health risks. PVC flooring, for example, gives off gasses from several harmful chemicals. Research the potential health concerns of any new flooring before making the commitment to install it in your home.