Phthalates are the most common “plasticiser” used in PVC and are used in many vinyl floors. For over forty years, they have been used to give most vinyl floors the flexibility needed to make installation and handling possible, as well as increasing the lifespan of the flooring. Phthalates are carcinogenic chemicals that are not chemically bonded to PVC so they will very slowly release into the atmosphere over time (called off-gassing) and cause hardening or brittleness in the PVC. This release is accelerated by exposure to sun and heat and is responsible for plastics used outdoors and in motor vehicles breaking down.
Phthalates are extensively used in hundreds of products that you touch or consume every day. You’ll find phthalates in perfume, hair spray, hand wash, deodorant, almost anything fragranced (from shampoo to air fresheners to laundry detergent), nail polish, insect repellent, carpeting, plastic food wrap and baggies, the coating on wires and cables, shower curtains, raincoats, mobile phones, lap-tops, plastic toys, and your car’s interior lining and dashboard. (When you smell “new car,” or your car has been locked up in the sun, you’re breathing phthalates.) Medical devices are full of phthalates (they make IV drip bags and tubes soft), as are the garden hoses we use to water our vegetables. (try drinking from a garden hose!)
US tests to detect the level of Phthalates being released from an installed PVC floor have failed, as the most advanced and sensitive sensors were unable to find a trace. PVC (vinyl) floors remain very flexible for decades which may mean the majority of the Phthalates remain locked in the vinyl flooring. The incredibly small amount of Phthalates you and your family are exposed to by your vinyl flooring over its lifetime is virtually insignificant compared to the Phthalates you are absorbing, breathing and ingesting on a daily basis.