Question

The floating cork floor we are considering buying contains Scotchgard. Will it be on the surface?

Asked by Laura Kagel
Athens, GA

I want to know if I will come into contact with the chemicals in Scotchgard.

Answer

Joel Hirshberg

Answered by Joel Hirshberg

Fairfield, IA

Green Building Supply - your eco-friendly home center

September 12, 2011

To my knowledge, most cork flooring manufacturers finish their floors with either a UV cured acrylic, polyurethane or other moisture and stain resistant topical sealer, none of which contain Scotchguard.

  • There are some companies that manufacture upholstery and clothing out of cork and some of these use a factory applied finish similar to Scotchguard that offers protection from stains and water.
  • The finish on most cork flooring is usually quite durable and if maintained properly will not stain easily unless left on the floor for long periods of time.

Oil and wax

Some of our customers who live in older homes claim they have the original cork on their floors for 50-75 years and all they do is oil it and then buff it with wax to provide a good seal. Few complain of staining.

I had one customer who had an older dog that urinated on the floor when the owner was away for the week and it did stain the floor.

Scotchguard

Scotchguard is a stain resisting product patented by 3M years ago that has many uses but also contains some questionable ingredients.

  • According to Wikipedia, 3M phased out many of the dangerous chemicals and reintroduced Scotchguard with better ones.
  • However, there is still some concern about the new chemicals and their effects on humans.

If a company offers cork flooring with Scotchguard in the finish, it would be useful to ask what ingredients are contained within it and what type of exposure levels are acceptable. If they don't know the answers, it would be better to do some serious research or look for a different product.

Shopping for non-toxic flooring

When looking for a non-toxic flooring always ask what type of finish it has and what type of adhesives are used.

  • Some contain small amounts of urea formaldehyde and others may off-gas nasty odors for weeks or months.
  • Manufacturers may provide Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) sheets which provide some of the ingredients contained. But these are voluntarily created by the manufacturer and are not checked for accuracy.

Look for companies that provide full disclosure of ingredients

In 1976 congress passed the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA). This was a first attempt to regulate chemicals.

  • Unfortunately, the act grandfathered some 62,000 chemicals as safe with little or no supporting data to back it up.
  • It has been said that fewer than 200 of these chemicals were required to be tested, and only five have been banned or restricted.
  • Since, then some 20,000 more chemicals have been approved.

According to the EPA website, there are currently more than 82,000 chemicals manufactured, used, or imported into the U.S. listed on the TSCA inventory. However, the EPA is unable to publicly identify nearly 17,000 of these chemicals because under TSCA guidelines, the chemicals have been claimed as confidential business information by the manufacturers.

  • That means they have been classified as trade secrets, and therefore, not required to be revealed to the public.
  • This makes it almost impossible to uncover the true chemical nature of a product.

Therefore, beware of what you read on a MSDS and be sure to do your homework. Look for companies that provide transparent information and are third party certified.

And always test a sample for your own sensitivities before buying.

 

For more information:

Read "Why is cork flooring considered better for the environment than wall-to-wall carpet?" a Q&A answered by Patrick Sheaffer.

Tagged In: cork flooring

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