Question

Are Paperstone or IceStone countertops good choices for indoor air quality?

Asked by Sean Sullivan, Milltown, NJ

I need help selecting a kitchen countertop. One of the main concerns for my family is indoor air quality. Paperstone seems to be environmentally friendly, but does the product contain formaldehyde? (They advertise no "free formaldehyde.") I like the recycled content of IceStone, but should I be concerned about cement binders? Are Paperstone and IceStone worth stretching my budget for, or should I choose a less expensive option—ceramic tiles? And is tile grout an issue for air quality?

Answer

Shannon Demma

Answered by Shannon Demma

Santa Cruz, CA

A D Construction

October 20, 2008

It can be overwhelming to sift through the evidence about whether a countertop is environmentally friendly while trying to find something that works with the design and aesthetics of your kitchen. Fortunately, both Paperstone and IceStone are excellent "green" choices.

Paperstone

Paperstone products are made with phenolic resin derived from the cashew nut that binds recycled and/or FSC-certified paper together through a heating process. The phenolic resin is petroleum-free. It is formulated with a small amount of formaldehyde, which becomes inert and non-detectable once it has cured.

For complete details, check the "Composition / Information on Ingredients" section of Paperstone's Material Safety Data Sheet (Download - PDF).

Icestone

IceStone certifies that their product does not release VOCs into the atmosphere. Their product consists of recycled glass suspended in a proprietary cement blend. Once cement is in its solid form, it is nontoxic. The main toxic element to this countertop may be silica dust from the installation that can be easily controlled and contained.

IceStone is 70–75 percent recycled content and is manufactured in Brooklyn, which makes it a fairly local material for your home in New Jersey.

Ceramic Tile

Although there are many beautiful ceramic tiles with recycled content, I shy away from tile on kitchen countertops—I believe the grout joints are difficult to clean and tend to accumulate bacteria.

Most grout is cement-based and should be fairly nontoxic; however, added pigments may contain VOCs. Steer clear of epoxy-based grouts, as these may have harmful chemicals.

Maintenance

As with most countertop materials, all the products above need to be sealed properly to ensure their longevity and beauty. Both IceStone and Paperstone can stain. (The darker colors of Paperstone will stain less.) Both companies offer suggestions for nontoxic sealing products.

Cost

Is it worth stretching your budget? We all face this decision. It truly depends on the look you want to achieve.

  • IceStone is stunning and unique. Paperstone is flexible and beautiful. 
  • There are green countertops on the market today that cost less.

Greenguard certifies countertop products with low emissions.

Another green option is visiting local granite fabricators to see if they have remnants left over from previous jobs. You may even find remnants of IceStone or a similar material at a reduced price.

Tagged In: home air quality, recycled glass countertops

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