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Safety First: Our Building Products Set the Standard

Our Annual Promise: Supreme Safety in Every Product. Reliable, Tested, and Safe - Year After Year

You may be surprised to learn that Ambient is the only building products brand in the United States that voluntarily, randomly, and extensively tests its products every single year for safety and off-gassing to ensure our products are safe for our customers.

We have achieved a record 18 straight years of test results showing "effectively zero" off-gassing in an array of products like eucalyptus flooring, bamboo flooring, luxury vinyl flooring, bamboo plywood, Magpanel MGO boards and more - an unparalleled achievement in our industry.

If that weren't enough, Ambient has also achieved FloorScore certification, and our floors comply with Title VI of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TCSA). All of our adhesives are ultra-low VOC and zero VOC as well. Nothing is more important than the safety of our customers and our employees, whose families and friends live, work and play on our floors too. Feel free to download our certificates and test results below!

indoor air quality room
floorscore

Ambient is proud to be FloorScore® Certified

Peace of mind for you and your family. Learn More

floorscore

FloorScore is the most recognized indoor air quality (IAQ) certification standard for hard surface flooring materials, adhesives, and underlayments. It means that SCS Global Services has independently certified that a flooring product complies with the volatile organic compound emissions criteria described in the California Section 01350 program.

SCS Global Services is a third-party certification firm that tests and verifies environmental, sustainability and quality performance claims for products in a variety of industries.

To determine whether a product qualifies for the FloorScore® seal, SCS Global Services:

  • - Reviews all of the VOC emission test reports produced by independent testing laboratories for that product.
  • - Determines whether the test results meet the VOC requirements of California Section 01350.
  • - Conducts regular inspections of manufacturing plants to review formulas, processing and quality control standards to maintain the integrity of the FloorScore®seal.

No matter what type of flooring you choose, products with the FloorScore® certification help you achieve cleaner, healthier air inside. If you’re breathing poor quality air, such as air that has higher concentrations of VOCs, you may be at higher risk for developing health problems such as dizziness, headaches and more serious conditions in the long term.

That’s why many architects, designers and homeowners choose FloorScore® certified materials such as flooring to help ensure a safer, healthier indoor environment.

At Ambient we offer a wide range of FloorScore® Certified flooring, including luxury vinyl planks and engineered bamboo hardwoods. We’re dedicated to ensuring our products meet (and often exceed) even the strictest indoor air standards in the world, which is why many of our customers choose and trust Ambient for their flooring needs.

Formaldehyde Off-Gassing In Parts Per Million (PPM)
  • 0
  • 0.005
  • 0.02
  • 0.05
  • 0.07
  • 0.08
  • 0.10
  • 0.30
  • Ambient
  • Air Level We Breathe
  • CARB Phase 2
  • E0 European
  • CARB Phase 1
  • E1 European
  • OSHA (U.S.)

Ambient: World's Safest Floors

FloorScore® Certified.
18 years straight of "effectively zero" off-gassing test results.
Meet the CARB Phase 1 (.08ppm) and 2 (.05ppm) standards.
Meet theE0 (.07ppm) and E1 (.10ppm) European standard.
Meet the OSHA (.30ppm) standard.
Complies with Toxic Substances Control Act.
Ultra-low VOC + zero VOC adhesives.

Ambient Product Safety Testing Results

Below we've posted some recent test reports so you can see how safe Ambient's products are yourself! Want to see a specific year's test results from before the years listed below, all the way back to our first off gassing tests back in 2006? No problem! Simply email a test report request to [email protected] and our support team will provide you with your requested report. All Ambient product testing is conducted by an independent third party U.S. laboratory.

Toxicity Levels In Different Floors

DID YOU KNOW? Bamboo and hardwood are considered some of the safest options when it comes to installing flooring in your home.

Flooring Type
Indoor Air Safety Rank

Linoleum is a very good option for flooring to avoid toxic substances. Excluding the topcoat, it’s typically made from bio-based and non-hazardous ingredients, and is free of the problematic additives used in vinyl products. However, all floors on the market contain a topcoat which may contain substances of concern, and which manufacturers often do not disclose. Since this is not unique to linoleum, it does not impact the rating - see the Read More section above for more information.

Be aware that some linoleum flooring has optional layers for acoustic insulation or floating floor installation which can add additional hazards. Floating floors do, however, avoid the use of a potentially hazardous adhesive, so are still a preferred flooring option.

Pre-finished solid bamboo & wood floors are a very good flooring option. Made from a single piece of wood, and purchased with a stain and topcoat already applied, this type of flooring allows for the chemically intensive finishing processes to take place in a factory where there are pollution controls and workers are protected.

If possible, find flooring that can be installed without an adhesive.

Ceramic tiles made without toxic glazes can be relatively low-impact materials for a flooring (or wall) installation. Tiles made in the USA are typically free of lead compounds in their glazes. Look for tile product literature that identifies where they’ve been made, and what they are made of, including frits, glazes, and pigments. Unglazed tiles are most preferred.

Avoid tiles with non-specific post-consumer recycled content. These contents may be old cathode ray tubes (CRTs) from TV sets and computer monitors. They contain high concentrations of lead. Tiles with CRT content are sometimes called CRT tiles.

Many PVC-free resilient flooring options are available. This category covers PVC-free resilient flooring that isn’t linoleum, rubber, or cork flooring. These products can vary in the type of binder used including polyethylene, polypropylene, ethylene vinyl acetate, polyester, and thermoplastic polyurethane or some combination of these. Different binders pose different concerns in terms of potentially hazardous residual catalysts or monomers in the finished product and in terms of life cycle impacts. However, these binders are typically preferable to polyvinyl chloride.

Homogeneous PVC-free resilient floors are commonly made of a binder, filler, colorants, and additional additives as well as a protective finish. Heterogeneous floors have multiple layers and may include a printed layer which may contain dyes and paper or a polymer film. Others may have additional layers such as a fiberglass layer within the floor and/or a backing material. Additional layers may add additional hazards.

Some products contain pre-consumer recycled content, likely from the limestone filler, which is sometimes designated as recycled content. Some may contain biobased content, typically at a low percentage of the overall product, less than 2%.

Engineered bamboo & wood floors is a lesser option than solid wood because it requires the use of a binder and other adhesive ingredients; however, an engineered floor can still be a preferable option in terms of user exposures to these chemicals if it is purchased pre-finished.

Formaldehyde-based binders emit formaldehyde (a carcinogen and asthmagen) over time. Preferring floors made with an NAUF (no added urea formaldehyde) binder at a minimum is a good practice; an NAF (no added formaldehyde) binder is even better.

When possible, prefer a product that does not require an adhesive for installation.

As noted above, solid bamboo & wood floors are a good flooring option, made from a single piece of wood without additional binder. When the boards are installed unfinished and require stains and topcoats to be applied within the building, those volatile and sometimes flammable chemicals can be brought into the project in an uncontrolled way, exposing installers and others nearby. Prefer pre-finished solid bamboo & wood floors if possible, and look for flooring that can be installed without an adhesive.

Floors made from new rubber do not contain the highly toxic legacy contaminants often found in recycled rubber floors.

However, the composition of these floors can vary widely, and manufacturers often do not disclose their contents. Further, isocyanates used in the binder that holds the rubber granules together are asthmagens.

Laminate floors are a type of engineered floor made by layering a sheet of decorative paper infused with a binder over a plank of composite wood. The pattern on the paper is usually intended to resemble the grain of a wood floor. Like other engineered floors, care should be taken to find products with a NAUF (no added urea formaldehyde) or NAF (no added formaldehyde) binder, and that do not require adhesives for installation. Note that unlike other engineered floors, laminates cannot be sanded or refinished. Laminate flooring manufacturing has been plagued by supply chain quality control problems, as evidenced by issues like the Lumber Liquidators formaldehyde scandal in 2015.

Carpeting is variable and can be made in many combinations of backings, face fibers, and surface treatments. Carpet with this ranking on the hazard spectrum does not contain the chemicals and chemical classes that are highest priority to avoid: fly ash, vinyl and polyurethane backings, and PFAS.

Vinyl and polyurethane backings have significant life cycle concerns and often contain hazardous additives. Alternative backings like polyolefin are less hazardous and more readily recyclable at the end of the product’s life.

Fly ash is commonly used as a filler in carpet backing and it contains heavy metal contaminants. Alternative fillers include calcium carbonate and ground, recycled post-consumer container glass which are becoming more common and don’t contain toxic substances.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), commonly used in stain-repellent treatments for carpet fibers, are a high priority to avoid. Alternative treatments are becoming available and appear to be better from a health standpoint, but greater transparency about their chemical identities and hazards is still needed.

Because more transparency is needed about PFAS alternatives, and additional hazardous chemicals may be found in carpets meeting the requirements of this category, it is ranked as yellow instead of green. Additional chemicals of concern that may be found in carpet include antimicrobials and flame retardants.

Engineered bamboo & wood floors are made by pressing layers of wood together with a binder into a solid board. When the boards are installed unfinished and require stains and topcoats to be applied within the building, those volatile and sometimes flammable chemicals can be brought into the project in an uncontrolled way, exposing installers and others nearby.

Engineered floors requiring on-site finishing are not recommended. However, if this material must be used, preferring floors made with an NAUF binder (good), or NAF binder (better) can decrease exposures to formaldehyde (a carcinogen and asthmagen) after the installation is complete. Note that some floors are typically sold unfinished, but can be pre-finished by the manufacturer if requested.

Because of the toxic processes required to make polyvinyl chloride (PVC), commonly known as vinyl, and the toxic pollution created when it is disposed of, vinyl floors of any kind are not a preferable material. However, in the instance where vinyl must be used, vinyl that has been reformulated to be free of hazardous phthalate plasticizers and doesn’t contain toxic or unnamed post-consumer recycled content should be preferred. Stain repellent treatments like Scotchgard are most often associated with carpet, but some vinyl floors may be treated with them as well. Avoid these whenever using vinyl flooring to avoid PFAS chemicals.

While US manufacturers have eliminated toxic lead compounds from ceramic tile glazes, overseas manufacturers continue to use them. Eighty percent of tiles sold in the US are imported, mainly from Europe and Asia, where leaded glazing remains common. Unless manufacturers specifically state otherwise, you should assume that glazed tiles not made in the USA contain lead (a PBT with cancer, developmental, and reproductive hazards). In addition, tiles with post-consumer recycled content from cathode ray tubes (CRTs), sometimes called CRT tiles, also contain lead from this recycled material.

When the location of manufacture can not be determined, the safest tile choices are unglazed tiles, or glazed tiles that are rated high for traffic abrasion (an abrasion resistance rating of IV or V according to ASTM C1027/ANSI A137.1, sometimes referred to as a PEI rating). The glazes of these tiles are less likely to wear down over time and introduce any lead that might be present into the living space.

Because of the toxic materials required to make vinyl, and the toxic pollution created when it is disposed of, vinyl floors of any kind are not a preferable material.

In addition, the inclusion of recycled vinyl in new products is a major pathway for the introduction of hazardous materials. Because vinyl products of all kinds are recycled together, hazardous lead, arsenic, PCBs, and phthalates can be found in post-consumer recycled vinyl.

Vinyl floors, whether sheet, tile, or plank, made in the conventional way, are a poor choice for a flooring material. Hazardous phthalate plasticizers, and stabilizers based on organotins which can be reproductive toxicants, all present hazards to occupants when they leach out of the floors and into the living space.

Rubber sheet flooring made with crumb rubber is not a healthy option. Crumb rubber (also referred to as post-consumer recycled content in this type of product) is sourced from recycled tire scrap and can include significant additional hazards. When tested, lead, hydrocarbon processing oils, and other hazardous and undisclosed materials have been found in crumb rubber.

Carpeting is variable and can be made in many combinations of backings, face fibers, and surface treatments. Materials of concern in carpets include:

Coal fly ash used as filler in carpet backings. Fly ash is a waste product from the combustion of coal and can be contaminated with mercury (a PBT developmental and reproductive toxicant) and other metals present in the coal itself.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) used as stain-repellent treatments. Health hazard information is not available for all the chemicals within this large group, but PFAS as a class have been identified as chemicals of concern because many have been found to be highly toxic, persist in the environment, and build up in body tissues.

Vinyl and Polyurethane backings. Because of significant life cycle concerns, vinyl and polyurethane are not preferred materials. Polyurethane is based on isocyanate chemistry. Isocyanates are a leading cause of workplace asthma,[9] so present a concern during manufacturing, and residuals may be present in the final product. Vinyl and polyurethane backings also commonly contain hazardous organotin catalysts, and vinyl backings may be plasticized with hazardous phthalates.

Carpets containing all these substances of concern are rated as red on the hazard spectrum - those that avoid them all are rated yellow.

The inclusion of recycled vinyl in new products is a major pathway for the introduction of hazardous materials. Because vinyl products of all kinds are recycled together, hazardous lead, arsenic, toxic PCBs, and elevated levels of plasticizers can be found in post-consumer recycled vinyl.

Formaldehyde-Free Flooring (Low VOC, Non-Toxic Flooring)

Air Quality Standards Test Results Show Ambient Bamboo Flooring with “effectively zero” formaldehyde emissions

What is Formaldehyde?

Formaldehyde is a naturally-occurring organic compound that exists in everything, including our breath and our cellular structure. It is classified as a volatile organic compound (VOC), meaning it is a chemical that becomes a gas at room temperature. The primary use of formaldehyde is in the production of resins, and as a chemical intermediate.

Are Bamboo Floors Formaldehyde-Free?

Microscopic amounts of formaldehyde exist just about everywhere, so it’s hard to say anything is truly “formaldehyde-free”. However, Ambient™ bamboo floors come very close with ‘effectively zero’ (less than .02 parts per million) formaldehyde emissions and they fully meet the No Added Urea Formaldehyde (NAUF) standards.

How Can Formaldehyde Affect Human Health?

If a person is exposed to higher concentrations of formaldehyde off-gassing, they can experience health problems like irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, skin irritation, depression and mood changes, insomnia, attention deficits, nausea, impairment of dexterity, memory, and equilibrium, headaches, and diseases like cancer.

As a Consumer, How Can I Reduce the Impact of Emissions?

When shopping for new flooring, researching the floor’s formaldehyde emissions and VOCs (volatile organic compounds) is vitally important. Choosing high-quality flooring from a reputable manufacturer like Ambient™ is a great place to start.

How to Shop for Safer Floors

Consider Non-Vinyl Flooring

Because some vinyl floors contain additives that can cause health concerns, this flooring material is not the absolute safest on the market. Rapidly-renewable and eco-friendly flooring made from bamboo or eucalyptus, however, are among the safest options in this regard. If you do opt for vinyl flooring - or carpet with vinyl backing - make sure it is free of hazardous phthalate plasticizers. This additive can migrate from products and affect residents, particularly young children crawling on floors.

Avoid Fluorinated Stain Repellent

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are commonly used in stain-repellent treatments for carpets. This class of chemicals is a high priority to avoid because they can be toxic, persist in the environment, and build up in body tissues. Many new carpets are becoming available without these stain repellents.

Check the Type and Source of Recycled Content

Recycled content can add significant hazards to products if sourcing is unknown and screening is not performed. In particular, you should avoid fly ash, which is used as a filler in carpet backings, crumb rubber used in recycled rubber flooring, cathode ray tubes (CRTs) in ceramic tile, and post-consumer recycled vinyl which often contains legacy contaminants. See the hazard spectrum above for more information and resources.

Look Out for Hazardous Materials

Avoid products with high hazard antimicrobial additives, like triclosan or products that are marketed as having a health benefit. Some antimicrobials may be necessary as preservatives, but these merely protect the product from degradation and have not been shown to provide any actual health benefit. Worse, the added antimicrobials can migrate out of the products and end up in the dust of interior spaces where people can become exposed.

Choose Products that are Certified Safe

California Department of Public Health (CDPH) emission certification is a standard Method for Testing and Evaluation of VOC Emissions. It will help you to weed out some of the worst actors in terms of VOC emissions from floors, but it is important to keep in mind that this testing only covers a small number of volatile chemicals (the standard imposes limits on only 35 specific VOCs). Many other volatile, semi-volatile, or nonvolatile hazardous chemicals may still be found in products certified to this standard.

Eco-Friendly Glossary

Here are some important terms to know when evaluating the safety of flooring and other building products:

floorscore

FSC®

FSC® stands for Forest Stewardship Council, an independent, not-for-profit organization established to promote the responsible management of the world's forests. FSC 100% certification means that the highest social and environmental criteria are followed when harvesting bamboo. FloorScore® is the most recognized indoor air quality (IAQ) certification standard for hard surface flooring materials, adhesives, and underlayments. Learn more about floorscore certification

carb phase 2 compliant

CARB Phases 1 & 2

CARB stands for California Air Resource Board. CARB Phase 1 and Phase 2 are part of California’s Composite Wood Products Regulation (CWP Regulation). Phase 1 took effect in 2009 to reduce formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products, hardwood, plywood, particleboard and medium density fiberboard (MDF). Phase 2 took effect in 2010 and lowered the formaldehyde emissions standard to .055 ppm. CARB is the strictest air quality measure because it CAPS emissions levels while other air quality standards are averages.

Ambient floors fall within the CARB Phase 2 standard for indoor air quality

nauf

NAUF

NAUF stands for No Added Urea Formaldehyde. Urea-formaldehyde resin is a thermosetting synthetic resin made by compressing urea with formaldehyde, and it is commonly used with manufacturing wood flooring. Formaldehyde alone is considered a Volatile Organic Chemical (VOC). VOCs occur naturally in wood and bamboo, and when wood or bamboo is used to make furniture or other products, the gasses eventually leak out and into the air that we breathe. Europe, Japan, Canada, and some states in the U.S. have regulated the use of urea formaldehyde in composite wood products. In NAUF compliant materials, naturally occurring levels of formaldehyde occur, but no added urea formaldehyde is used.

Ambient floors are all NAUF compliant.

usgbc

USGBC

USGBC stands for United States Green Building Council. It is a standard for LEED IEQ Credit 4: Low-Emitting Materials. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Efficient Design and was created by the USGBC in 1993. It's vision is that buildings and communities will regenerate and sustain the health and vitality of all life within a generation. It's mission is to transform the way buildings and communities are designed, built and operated, enabling an environmentally and socially responsible, healthy, and prosperous environment that improves the quality of life. It has since become the world leader for designing green buildings.

Ambient floors meet all the USGBC requirements.

osha

OSHA

OSHA stand for Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards regarding indoor air quality of less than 0.30 ppm of formaldehyde. With help of this test, you can check if floors are safe for your family and your home!

Ambient floors far exceed the OSHA standards.

e1 e0 european

E1 & E0

E1 & E0 are European Regulations for Formaldehyde. These are standards of safety recognized in Europe and signals the maximum levels of formaldehyde that each piece of flooring can contain. E0 and E1 grants the limit of formaldehyde emission to be equal to or less than 0.07ppm and 0.10ppm respectively.

Ambient floors meets E1 and E0 with formaldehyde emissions of effectively zero.

iso 14001

ISO 14001

ISO 14001 is the international standard that specifies requirements for an effective environmental management system (EMS). It provides a framework that an organization can follow, rather than establishing environmental performance requirements.

Ambient factory meets ISO 14001 requirements. we identify and control the environmental impact of our activities, products and services; we are committed to continually improving our environmental performance; and we have implemented a systematic approach to setting and achieving environmental objectives and targets.

iso 9001

ISO 9001

ISO 9001 is defined as the international standard that specifies requirements for a quality management system (QMS). Organizations use the standard to demonstrate the ability to consistently provide products and services that meet customer and regulatory requirements.

Ambient factory meets ISO 9001 requirements, representing global quality standards for consistently producing products that satisfy customers expectations.

Dangerous Substances

Health Hazards related to dangerous substances found in some Flooring Products

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), commonly used in stain-repellent treatments for carpet fibers, are a high priority to avoid. There is evidence that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse health outcomes in humans.

  • infant birth weights
  • effects on the immune system
  • cancer (for PFOA)
  • thyroid hormone disruption (for PFOS)

Phthalate Plasticizers

Phthalates (thay-lates) are chemicals used to make vinyl soft and pliable for uses such as roofing membrane, wall covering and flooring. Phthalate plasticizers are not chemically bound to vinyl, they can leach, migrate or evaporate into indoor air and concentrate in household dust.

  • Many phthalates are hormone-disrupting chemicals that interfere with the production of the male sex hormone, testosterone, which is necessary for proper development and function of the male reproductive organs.

Fly ash

Fly ash used as filler in carpet backings. Fly ash is a waste product from the combustion of coal and can be contaminated with mercury and other metals present in the coal itself.

  • birth defects
  • decreasing fertility
  • behavioral problems that appear as child grows
  • loss of fetus during pregnancy

Crumb Rubber

Rubber sheet flooring made with crumb rubber is not a healthy option. Crumb rubber (also referred to as post-consumer recycled content in this type of product) is sourced from recycled tire scrap and can include significant additional hazards.

  • When tested, lead, hydrocarbon processing oils, and other hazardous and undisclosed materials have been found in crumb rubber.

Cathode Ray Tubes (CRT)

Avoid tiles with non-specific post-consumer recycled content. These contents may be old cathode ray tubes (CRTs) from TV sets and computer monitors. They contain high concentrations of lead.

  • delayed mental and physical development
  • learning difficulties
  • hearing problems
  • reduced IQ

Triclosan

Avoid products with high hazard antimicrobial additives, like triclosan or products that are marketed as having a health benefit.

  • abnormal endocrine system
  • effects metabolism
  • weakening of immune system
  • increased chance of developing allergies, asthma and eczema.
  • reproduction disorders

Silver Nanoparticles (nano-silver)

These ultra-small particles are not well understood, and are able to pass through the walls of cells in the body. Products described as “antimicrobial” and claiming to have a health benefit are best avoided whenever possible.

  • Silver nanoparticles have lethal and sublethal adverse effects on development and longevity by inducing ROS-mediated stress responses

Even Our Shipping Practices are Eco-Friendly!

In addition to offering environmentally-friendly products, Ambient implements safe and healthy practices when it comes to shipping those products to each of our customers. Here’s how:

shipped
Shipping

We strongly encourage you to reuse or recycle our shipping products to the greatest extent possible.

peanut
Packing Peanuts

We use FDA-approved packing peanuts made of organic cornstarch. They decompose in water leaving no toxic waste.

biohazard
Stretch Wrap

Our pallets are wrapped in stretch wrap made of 3% post-industry recycled content.

box
Boxes

Our shipping boxes are biodegradable and are made of 35% recycled material. If they are in good condition, we reuse them whenever possible.

 open box
Corrugated Packing Material

All of our corrugated packing material is made of 100% recycled content and is completely recyclable.

package
Sample Boxes and Envelopes

Our sample boxes and envelopes are manufactured using environmentally-friendly methods and are entirely recyclable.

Effect of VOCs And Formaldehyde On Human Health

Formaldehyde emissions and bamboo flooring. What are the risks? Is it safe?

We are frequently asked whether our bamboo flooring emits gases and what the formaldehyde levels are. In the production of bamboo floors, as with almost all other flooring, trace amounts of formaldehyde are used. While high concentrations of formaldehyde can be hazardous, the minimal amounts released by (high quality) bamboo floors are not present at levels that pose a toxic risk. Bamboo flooring has been utilized worldwide now for approximately three decades in a variety of environments, including homes, offices, restaurants, schools, and hotels, and we are unaware of any instances where it has caused health problems. Moreover, bamboo floors are subject to rigorous regulation, and reputable manufacturers carry out annual testing on their products for volatile organic compounds.

Living in a house with toxic building materials is a scary thought. It can understandably worry anyone thinking of putting a certain type of floor in their home because their first thoughts will be for their family’s safety. Bamboo floors have always proven to be safe, environmentally friendly, beautiful, tough, and affordable. Perhaps this combination of tough-to-beat factors explains why there are some articles on the web questioning the safety of bamboo flooring with regards to formaldehyde, usually by vested interests of one type or another.

safe bamboo flooring

While we know our floors meet the highest safety standards, we also know there’s a bit of fear-mongering on the web related to bamboo flooring. We at Ambient are very transparent about our products’ safety, so much so that we have an entire page dedicated to it on our website.

As we all know, we now live in a world where alternative facts are confidently stated as truths, where some companies will say just about anything to sell their wares, and where science and reality are often cast aside in favor of rumor and innuendo. We ourselves have seen articles on the web implying bamboo floors are dangerous and full of formaldehyde and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), with very few (if any) facts provided to verify those statements. Unfortunately, these misleading articles have been copied and pasted as fact around the web. But fortunately, they have led to bamboo floors becoming the most tested hardwood floors on the planet in terms of toxicity – which in the end isn’t a bad thing!

So let’s take a look at what the science actually says about bamboo flooring and its effect (or lack thereof) on human health, so you can make an informed decision on what is best for you and your home. Because anyone who’s really done their research knows that high-quality bamboo floor brands have formaldehyde levels in their floors that are so low, they’re virtually undetectable, less than .02 parts per million.

gas mask man

VOCs are chemical compound particles that vaporize naturally over time at room temperature. They can be naturally produced by plants, animals, and microbes but can also be human-made in the production of items like paints, varnishes, cleaning products, refrigerants, and cigarettes. Formaldehyde is a naturally occurring, strong-smelling chemical that has been used in the production of many building materials and household items for decades while also serving as an industrial-strength disinfectant that can be used to preserve the dead in morgues and medical labs. Inside the average home, you’ll find some level of formaldehyde in most household items, including:

  • paints
  • paper
  • cavity wall or loft insulation
  • varnishes
  • glues or other adhesives
  • cosmetics
  • fertilizer
  • medicines
  • furniture
  • cleaning products (i.e., dishwasher tablets, disinfectant, laundry detergents)
  • gas stoves
  • wallpaper
  • cabinets
  • permanent-press fabrics
  • fireplaces
  • kerosene space heaters

This means that both VOCs and formaldehyde are beneficial to our daily lives, so we can’t just stop buying everything that emits formaldehyde. We have to be careful with what we buy! It is important to monitor the formaldehyde concentration of products to ensure their safety; however, bamboo flooring is not toxic on the whole. Even humans produce formaldehyde, and we wouldn’t want to give up living with other people…. Well, we might, but formaldehyde emissions would be a super weird (and probably illegal) reason to kick out your roommate.

What binding agents are used in bamboo flooring?

At Ambient Bamboo Flooring, our solid strand woven bamboo floors use only phenol-formaldehyde resins, which typically do not result in emissions considered hazardous. Like all engineered hardwoods, engineered bamboo flooring uses non-toxic trace amounts of urea-formaldehyde during manufacturing, but it is generally in meager, safe quantities. These quantities are roughly equivalent to the levels used in household and office furniture and cleaning products.

Are there formaldehyde-free brands of bamboo flooring?

Formaldehyde is a naturally-occurring organic compound that exists in everything, including our breath and our cellular structure, so it’s hard to say anything is truly “formaldehyde-free.” However, when it comes to flooring, some products are so low in formaldehyde, they meet the “No Added Urea Formaldehyde (NAUF)” standard. Most high-quality bamboo flooring in the US meets this standard.

It’s no secret that exposure to large quantities of VOCs and formaldehyde or exposure to them can hurt human health over a prolonged period of time. This is especially true if they are breathed in by someone with a weakened immune system or someone who has difficulty breathing. This is why you’re advised to avoid smoking around children and open the windows when painting.

Researchers who specialize in Indoor Environmental Quality report that indoor air can potentially be way more polluted than outdoor air. The reason for this includes contaminants often found indoors like mold and other pollutants, as well as emissions of VOCs or formaldehyde from furniture or furnishings, which is bad for overall health. This is cause for concern because most Americans spend the vast majority of their time indoors (i.e., in the office, at the gym, at home) and rarely get fresh air that isn’t being recirculated by an air conditioning unit.

It is a genuine and reasonable concern for homeowners! Installing new floors is an enormous undertaking as a home improvement project. It would be devastating to settle on bamboo flooring only to discover it is highly toxic or otherwise unsafe. These VOCs/formaldehyde emissions can cause some serious problems to your health, including, but are not limited to:

  • irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat
  • skin irritation
  • depression and mood changes
  • insomnia
  • irritability
  • attention deficit
  • impairment of dexterity, memory, and equilibrium
  • increased risk of asthma attacks
  • nausea
  • headaches
  • damage to the central nervous system, including increased risk of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)/ Lou Gehrig’s disease
  • cancer, including nose, throat, and leukemia

The World Health Organization (WHO) even lists formaldehyde gas as a carcinogen (cancer-causing agent) in humans, which rightly makes people concerned about what they’re putting into their homes. It is especially problematic if you or someone you love is vulnerable to these emissions, i.e., children, the elderly, those with difficulties in breathing, or those with compromised immune systems. However, the majority of serious problems caused by these emissions do not arise from everyday home use and are more likely to affect those working around the toxic chemicals all day long: like morticians, lab technicians, and industrial workers who produce products may emit these chemical compounds.

There is little evidence to support the idea that coming into contact with these emissions at the low and safe levels found in your home furnishings would risk your health, especially if you take precautions, such as getting time outside in the fresh air and checking that your furniture meets the necessary safety requirements. It’s like how fast food would cause damaging and sometimes irreversible health problems if you ate it every day, but in small quantities, it can serve an important function without hurting you, as long as you eat right and exercise at other times.

What does the evidence say specifically regarding bamboo floors and human health?

Bamboo flooring has been safely used in homes across the world since the mid-90s. There is little supporting evidence in terms of actual scientific data (if you see it, let us know!) that bamboo flooring has ever resulted in sickness, or even that emissions from bamboo floors have ever tested at toxic levels to human (or kitty cat) health. Realistically, the varnishes on your wood furniture and cabinetry are as likely to be a problem as the floor you’re walking on. Still, the flooring industry chooses to err on the side of caution and limit any potential harms by adhering to European E1 standards for indoor air quality at a minimum, which states that these floors should have formaldehyde levels of no more than 0.1 parts per million (ppm). This is the level at which the National Cancer Institute says emissions can start to affect people at the lower end of the scale (i.e., nausea, irritation to the ear, nose, and throat). Many go far beyond that by adhering to the California Air Resource Board’s Phase II standard for indoor air quality, which is regarded as the strictest in the world and sets its levels at 0.05ppm.

What else is the industry doing?

The potential risk to human health is not something that the flooring industry is taking lightly, so they are taking major precautions to keep their customers safe. There are now several special standards to qualify that products meet strict indoor air quality standards, so you can be assured that your gorgeous bamboo floors will not expose you or your family to toxic chemicals. These standards include:

  1. The Resilient Floor Covering Institute’s FloorScore
  2. The CARB Phase 2 indoor air standard
  3. Greenguard Gold

The most reputable brands of bamboo flooring will typically have a page on their website where they post annual test results related to indoor air quality, so you may inquire with the company you’re considering.

What can I, as a consumer, do to reduce these emissions’ impact on myself and my family?

If you are considering a beautiful bamboo floor but are still concerned about the risk of formaldehyde or VOC exposure, consider these steps to increase the safety of the product you buy, both at the time of purchase and in the future.

  1. Pick a reputable brand: We’ve spoken a lot about how the bamboo flooring’s quality and safety will vary based on the company you buy from, so check them out. Ask to see their indoor air quality test results and ensure those results were achieved within the past year or two.
  2. Choose solid bamboo floors: In a study by Consumer Reports – which was not specifically looking at bamboo flooring, but rather flooring in general – they found that flooring made from solid wood had lower formaldehyde emissions than engineered products (including vinyl, laminate, and engineered hardwoods), which they believed was due to the glues used in the production of engineered flooring.
  3. Get some fresh air: This means opening the windows occasionally to let in the fresh air. It also means getting some time in the open air, whether that’s taking the dog for a walk or playing football in the park with your kids. It would help if you also banned anyone from smoking inside your home since that will add pollutants to the air.
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Don’t panic just yet! If you just removed the flooring planks from their boxes, what you’re most likely smelling is light off-gassing from the polyurethane finish, which is common for all pre-finished flooring (including hardwood, vinyl and many others) and usually goes away a few days. what happens is that pre-finished floors come off the finish line and are packaged quickly, trapping the vapors in the plastic wrapping. If the bamboo brand you purchased meets CARB Phase II requirements, and is Floorscore certified, you can rest at ease.

Most high-quality bamboo floors meet the CARB Phase 2 standards that ensure that you’re not exposing your body to toxic levels of chemicals. While some clear lacquer and varnishes are known to contain high levels of VOC gases, which are known to be environmentally toxic, your furniture is probably a worse offender than your floor when it comes to releasing VOC gases. Federal law states that varnishes must contain less than 450 grams of VOCs per liter; lacquers can come in at only 350 grams per liter. While these gases are toxic in high quantities, there’s not enough in your flooring to cause problems in most healthy individuals.

What symptoms would I see if items in my home were emitting high levels of VOCs?

If you have high levels of VOC gases in your home, especially if you’re installing large quantities of flooring or you’ve installed several other gas-emitting kinds of wood at the same time, it’s important to know what symptoms you should look for. Common symptoms may include eye irritation, irritation of the nose and throat, headaches, and nausea. If you start to experience these symptoms while working with your flooring, make sure the area is well-ventilated and take a break from the area for a little while.

How can I decrease VOC exposure while working with bamboo flooring or after my flooring has been installed?

Working in a well-ventilated area while handling your bamboo flooring planks will help the chemical compounds dissipate faster. You can also wear a face mask, which will help filter out harmful dust particles.

How long will the odor last? I don’t like the way it smells!

If you don’t like the odor, there’s no need to worry since it will decrease noticeably within a few days and disappear completely within a week or two. Then you can enjoy your beautiful new flooring for a lifetime.

How can I make the smell in my new bamboo floors go away faster?

Opening windows and letting in fresh air is the best way to help the smell dissipate faster. Installing fans in the room to help push the fumes out will also help move it along but may not substantially shorten the process compared to simply opening the windows. In general, the only thing that really helps with the smell is time. Giving your room adequate time to air out is the best way to ensure that you’ll be able to enjoy your bamboo floors without any smell problems. When you’re working with prefinished wood floors, some smell is an expected part of the process. Before you know it, the smell will have dissipated, leaving you with a beautiful, durable floor that you’ll be able to enjoy in your home for years. Be prepared for the smell when you install your products. If necessary, make arrangements to use that room less for a couple of weeks, especially if you or your family have allergies or sensitivities like migraines that may cause problems to the smell. Your gorgeous, eco-friendly bamboo floors are well worth the time and effort, and you’ll quickly discover that the smell is a thing of the past.

I wouldn’t say I like the smell at all, and it gives me a headache every time I smell it. Is this a reason to worry?

Some people are more sensitive to the smell of the urethane than others, and you’ll probably notice that the smell disappears within just a few days of installation. That being said, if you feel a persistent headache and you don’t normally experience such symptoms, then, of course, you should always consult with a doctor.

Benefits to human health

We’ve spoken a lot about the potential dangers to human health posed by emissions from bamboo flooring, so now let’s look at how your beautiful bamboo flooring can actually improve your health. It reduces allergens, like dust and mites, because bamboo flooring’s smooth and rigid surface doesn’t allow them to hide in cracks or carpet. Thus, the irritants are easily picked up by the vacuum cleaner or soft-bristled broom and disposed of. So, take a deep breath and don’t let fear-mongering and scare tactics stop you from buying an eco-friendly and beautiful bamboo floor that can last for decades to come. Look at the scientific evidence (or lack thereof) surrounding the dangers posed to human health through installing a bamboo floor, and decide for yourself. We’re certain that you’ll realize that not only is bamboo flooring safe for human habitation, it’s also a safe investment that will boost the value of your home for years to come.

Have more questions about bamboo flooring? Then check out the Essential Guide to Bamboo Flooring to learn everything you need to know.

Would you like a sample of Ambient’s flooring sent to your home? If so, you can click on the box below or call 866-710-7070 to speak to one of our flooring professionals.

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