What are VOC's?

''Our flooring omits low amounts of VOC's'' or ''Our product omits no VOC's''. Both of these phrases are often used by flooring manufacturer marketeers to shine a positive light on their products. But what actually are VOC's and what are the negatives of them within the flooring environment?


VOC's stands for Volatile Organic Compounds. These are carbon based chemical compounds that evaporate from products, such as flooring, at room temperature. These compounds are invisible and have no odour. However, they can be extremely harmful to our health and the health of our children and pets.




Here is a small list of potential health issues that VOC's can cause; 'Eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, loss of co-ordination and nausea, damage to liver, kidney and central nervous system, cancer in animals.'


Pretty serious stuff, right?


One of the most dangerous VOC's found within some flooring products is that of formaldehyde, yes the chemical that is widely used to preserve bodies. Here is a snippet about formaldehyde from the American Cancer Society.



''Exposure to formaldehyde has been shown to cause cancer in laboratory test animals. Exposure to relatively high amounts of formaldehyde in medical and occupational settings has been linked to some types of cancer in humans, but the effect of exposure to small amounts is less clear.''


In small amounts, as shown above, the presence of formaldehyde is unclear as to whether it shows any links to increase risk in cancer. However exposure to high amounts is a risk and unfortunately we need to be aware that in some flooring products there may well be a higher than average level.




As recent as 2019, the biggest flooring retailer in the USA, Lumber Liquidators, was hit with a $33 million penalty for selling Laminate flooring from China with excessive amounts of formaldehyde.


''Some of the flooring emitted more formaldehyde, “60 Minutes” reported, than the labs the show’s investigators used had ever seen. A medical expert told CBS that children would be particularly at risk of respiratory problems with extended exposure to that amount of formaldehyde.''

Volatile Organic Compounds are therefore a real issue. The solution to this is to specify a flooring type that has no VOC's or very low VOC's. Especially in places where children will be present. For example, the use of a Cork floor within an environment where children will be present will mean you have a floor that emits no VOC's whilst retaining all the other priorities, such as easy to clean, soft, warm, that you'd require when choosing a child friendly floor. We are big fans of Cork at Floorsauce, it really is the most sustainable material available to us and must be utilised.


There are also many innovative products around the world which we have sourced that have no or very low VOC's and are near identical to that of the VOC emitting floor you may be looking at.


These products are manufactured with wellness in mind and are often based on a castor or canola oil base as opposed to that of the plasticisers and crude oil used in vinyl products.




To summarise, VOC's are dangerous in high quantities and inconclusive in small amounts. However, they are most definitely not at all beneficial and should be avoided at all costs, especially if your project has priorities of well-being and health. There are many alternatives that have no VOC's and do the same, if not a better job.


If you are interested in discussing these alternatives or have a project with well being or health at the forefront get in touch and lets see if we can source you a product closer to what you actually want.