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Straight answers to tough questions about resilient flooring.
Over the years, a number of tough questions have been raised about commercial and residential flooring products. We believe these questions deserve straight answers. So, we’ve put together some helpful information on a number of tough topics to give you easy access to the facts on resilient flooring. This information will also help you ensure that your resilient flooring is installed, maintained, and removed the correct way.

Should I be worried about asbestos in resilient flooring?
Asbestos in flooring materials can be a concern if not managed properly. Fortunately, when intact and in good condition, it should not be a problem. Only when floors containing asbestos fibers are crumbled or pulverized do they enter the air and become a health hazard if inhaled. The good news is that almost all resilient flooring today is manufactured without asbestos.

What’s the truth about polyvinyl chloride(PVC)?
Polyvinyl chloride or PVC has long been one of the most popular types of plastic manufactured because of its durability and cost-effectiveness. These characteristics also make it a popular choice as an element in vinyl flooring. Recently, however, PVC has come under scrutiny for sustainability and health issues. We want you to know the whole story.

What are phthalates?
Phthalates are a type of compound used to soften vinyl, increase its performance, and boost its durability. Many people have questions about the healthfulness of phthalates, and RFCI is dedicated to creating a better understanding of the science behind phthalates.

How can I solve the moisture-mold connection?
Moisture can be a serious problem if it leads to mold or mildew. Fortunately, resilient flooring is naturally moisture-resistant and easy to clean.

Are there no-slip solutions for resilient flooring?
Resilient flooring manufacturers are constantly working to increase the slip resistance of their flooring products. A number of product testing procedures have been developed to help ensure slip-resistant standards. And, of course, steps like cleaning up spills immediately and placing rubber-backed mats in high-traffic areas can also help. For more information on the slip-resistant features of resilient flooring and how you can improve flooring safety, click here.

Are we breathing healthy air – indoors and out?
We all want to know that the air we’re breathing is healthy air. While it is true resilient flooring and the adhesives used in installation can be source of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can contribute to poor indoor air quality (IAQ), manufacturers have made great strides in reducing this risk. Many of the products now manufactured by RFCI members have been certified for low VOC emission. For more information on low-emitting resilient flooring products and the resilient flooring industry’s accomplishments in IAQ, click here.

ASBESTOS in Flooring

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral fiber mined from the earth. It is heat and chemical resistant, and is easily formed into just about any shape or product. It was used in more than 3,000 different construction materials and manufactured products, including many found in homes.

Can flooring contain asbestos?

Flooring, including sheet vinyl, vinyl or asphalt floor tiles and any associated paper-like underlayment backing, mastic, and asphaltic (cut-back) adhesive manufactured prior to 1985 may contain asbestos. In the past, asbestos fibers were added during the production of flooring materials to strengthen the flooring and to increase its durability and flame resistance. Most flooring products manufactured after 1985 do not contain asbestos. Products purchased after 1985 could contain asbestos if they came from previously manufactured inventories.

How do I find out if it’s asbestos?

You can check for asbestos markings on the material or its original packaging if available. Or, you can hire a certified asbestos inspector to sample the material or perform an asbestos inspection. Companies that perform sampling and inspections are listed in the Yellow Pages under “Asbestos Consulting and Testing”.

Where can samples of a building material be tested for asbestos?

RFCI recommends that samples be submitted to an analytical laboratory that is accredited by the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) through the National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP) or which successfully participates in the asbestos bulk analysis program of the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA). A list can be found by state at the following link: http://ts.nist.gov/Standards/scopes/plmtm.htm

If you have asbestos in your home…

Leave it alone

Asbestos is only a problem if asbestos fibers are released into the air. If the asbestos material is in good condition and if it is not being disturbed (sanding, dry scraping, drilling, bead blasting, mechanical chipping, pulverizing, etc.) then it will not release asbestos fibers. The safest and least costly option may be to leave the asbestos material in place. Many new resilient flooring products can be successfully installed over the existing flooring.  Check the manufacturer’s installation guidelines before proceeding.

Remove it

Removing the asbestos material may be the best option if the asbestos material is extensively damaged or if it will be disturbed by renovation or other activities.

Homeowners may legally remove asbestos materials themselves from the single-family home they own and occupy. However, the Resilient Floor Covering Institute (RFCI) strongly recommends using a licensed contractor familiar and trained in doing this work. All work should be performed in accordance with the RFCI Recommended Work Practices For the Removal of Resilient Flooring.

When is the removal of flooring hazardous?

Flooring that contains asbestos, when intact and in good condition, is generally considered nonfriable and is not hazardous. Heat, water, weathering or aging can weaken flooring to the point where it is considered friable. Friable flooring includes any material containing more than 1 percent asbestos that can be crumbled, pulverized or reduced to powder with hand pressure. This includes previously nonfriable flooring material which has been damaged to the extent that it may be crumbled, pulverized or reduced to powder by hand pressure. Flooring can also be made friable during its removal. Friable materials can release asbestos fibers into the air. Once in the air, asbestos fibers may present a health hazard to people who inhale those fibers.

Residential Flooring

Can I remove asbestos flooring myself?

Removing resilient floor coverings is a common occurrence during home remodeling projects. Resilient floor coverings include linoleum, rubber, cork and sheet vinyl and vinyl floor tiles. Options for dealing with asbestos-containing flooring include removal or installing new flooring over it. Removal of in-place resilient flooring should be considered the final alternative.

If removal of a resilient floor is required, the Resilient Floor Covering Institute (RFCI) recommends using a licensed contractor who has completed the RFCI training program: Recommended Work Practices for The Removal of Resilient Flooring. (unless state or local laws require other measures). However, the information in this document will assist the homeowner who decides to remove the asbestos-containing flooring themselves do the work in a safe manner. It is important for the health and safety of you and your family that you perform the work correctly. Using the proper equipment, preparation, removal procedures and clean up are important in reducing exposure to asbestos fibers.

Is just having asbestos-containing flooring materials in my home or building a health risk?

No. Just having asbestos-containing flooring or adhesive in a home or building is not a health risk if the materials are in good condition.

Commercial Flooring

Are there federal and state regulations regarding the removal of asbestos containing resilient flooring in non-residential/commercial buildings?

Yes. At the federal level both OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration and EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) regulate the removal of asbestos containing materials. EPA also regulates the disposal of asbestos containing materials. Additionally, some state and local authorities have established requirements for the removal and disposal of asbestos containing materials.

Can my in-house maintenance staff remove asbestos containing resilient flooring?

In limited cases in-house employees can remove some types of asbestos containing materials but only after they have received the required training. There are federal, state and local regulations which apply to in-house employees removing asbestos containing materials.

PVC/VINYL

Vinyl – The material of choice.

As the material of choice for blood bags and tubing, vinyl helps to maintain the world’s blood supply and supports critical healthcare procedures such as dialysis. As a packaging material, vinyl helps to keep food safe and fresh during transportation and on store shelves, and it provides tamper resistant packaging for food, pharmaceuticals and other products. Because it will not rust or corrode, vinyl is widely used in water pipes to deliver clean, safe-to-drink water and in sewer pipes to ensure the integrity of wastewater handling systems. Vinyl’s resistance to breakdown under high electrical voltage and its ability to bend without cracking make it the leading material for wire and cable insulation. Vinyl’s toughness and durability make it the most widely used plastic for building and construction applications such as siding, windows, roofing, fencing, decking, wallcoverings, wall protection and base, and floor covering.

What is vinyl and where does it come from?

Vinyl is essentially derived from two simple ingredients: fossil fuel and salt. Petroleum or natural gas is processed to make ethylene, and salt is subjected to electrolysis to separate out the natural element chlorine. Ethylene and chlorine are combined to produce ethylene dichloride (EDC), which is further processed into a gas called vinyl chloride monomer (VCM). In the next step, known as polymerization, the VCM molecule forms chains, converting the gas into a fine, white powder – vinyl resin – which becomes the basis for the final process, compounding. In compounding, vinyl resin may be blended with additives such as plasticizers for flexibility, stabilizers for durability and pigments for color. Through various plastics processing operations, manufacturers are able to offer versatile products with customized performance characteristics.

Because less than half of the vinyl polymer is from petroleum feedstocks, and 99 percent of all vinyl produced ends up in a finished product due to manufacturing efficiencies across multiple business segments, it is one of the most energy-efficient plastics.

Is the process for manufacturing vinyl safe for workers, the environment and the surrounding community?

Yes. The vinyl production process is strictly regulated by federal, state and local governments, and is essentially enclosed and computer-controlled, to safeguard the health of industry workers, people living near vinyl manufacturing facilities, and the environment. In addition, North American vinyl resin manufacturers have made a voluntary public commitment to achieve the goals of the chemical industry’s Responsible Care® program (www.americanchemistry.com), one of the most comprehensive and conscientious standards of health, safety and environmental conduct created by any industry. Workplace exposures to VCM are limited by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to one part per million averaged over eight hours. This regulation was in response to a rare form of liver cancer found in highly exposed vinyl workers in the early 1970s. The vinyl manufacturing process was also reengineered in the 1970s to minimize worker exposure. No known case of this rare cancer has been identified in a U.S. vinyl production worker whose work history began after the stricter OSHA regulations and reengineered processing technology were introduced in the late 1970s.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates air and water emissions and solid waste disposal associated with the vinyl manufacturing process. The agency confirmed in 2002 that the vinyl industry was meeting the “maximum achievable control technology” standard for vinyl mandated in 1990 by the Clean Air Act. From 1987 to 2000, facilities operated by all U.S. producers reduced their reported releases of EDC and VCM by 95 percent and 74 percent, respectively. In reality, significant VCM emission reductions were made long before 1987.

Is the production of chlorine safe?

As in all industrial operations, the process of extracting chlorine from salt is not without risks, but the men and women who work in the high-tech facilities where chlorine is produced are highly trained to manage those risks. When combined with certain other substances, chlorine becomes beneficial and long lasting. For example, chlorine combined with sodium forms salt; chlorine with other chemicals forms 85 percent of all pharmaceuticals on the market; and chlorine with hydrogen and carbon forms polyvinyl chloride (PVC), or vinyl. The long service life of vinyl products translates into reduced need to dispose of and replace products. When vinyl is made into products such as commercial flooring, chlorine is in a very stable form, which is chemically different from the reactive elemental form. No chlorine is emitted from finished products. The chlorine component also inhibits the spread of a fire

What is dioxin and where does it come from?

Dioxin is not produced intentionally; it can occur when anything containing chlorine burns. Because chlorine is so pervasive in the environment, dioxin is a byproduct of natural events like forest fires, lightning and volcanoes, as well as of manmade activity, such as burning wood and backyard trash, diesel vehicle emissions and various manufacturing processes.

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In the past 30 years, dioxin levels in the environment have sharply and steadily declined while production of vinyl has more than tripled. EPA attributes the dramatic declines in dioxin emissions to regulations and voluntary industry actions. Incinerators are a good case in point. Studies consistently show that dioxin emissions from waste incinerators are primarily the result of how things are burned, not what is burned. Regulations have improved how incinerators operate. EPA has stated that its “best estimates of emissions from sources that can be reasonably quantified indicate that dioxin emissions in the United States decreased about 80 percent between 1987 and 1995, primarily due to reductions in air emissions from municipal and medical incinerators, and substantial further declines continue to be documented.” By 2004, EPA estimates dioxin emissions will be down more than 90 percent from 1987 levels.

Emissions from vinyl production are a small fraction of total emissions. Sources of greater dioxin emissions than vinyl manufacturing include open burning (the largest source), fireplaces, coal-burning utilities, vehicle emissions and metal smelting.

Are the plasticizers used to make floors containing vinyl a health issue?

Independent scientists, international governmental bodies and phthalate producers have conducted extensive studies on the safety of phthalates – the plasticizers used to make vinyl flexible. In more than 40 years of study and use, phthalates have never been shown to cause harm to humans from their normal, intended use.

Phthalates are tightly bound in the structure of the vinyl and have very low volatility, which means that they do not tend to evaporate. Thus, they would be an unlikely contributor to “sick building syndrome.”

Asthma is a growing concern today, and extensive research is being conducted on its possible causes. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academy of Sciences has reviewed the research on possible sources (including phthalates), and phthalate plasticizers are not on IOM’s list of more than a dozen chemical and biological agents to which exposure was found to be associated with asthma.

EPA does not list phthalates as persistent,bioaccumulative and toxic materials.

Phthalate-plasticized vinyl is the material of choice for many medical products – such as blood bags and tubing – regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Do floors containing vinyl have any impact on indoor air quality?

Most architects, designers and builders agree that the air quality inside a building depends on a number of factors, including how a building is designed, built and maintained; the construction materials, furnishings and cleaning materials used in the building; the heating/ventilating/air conditioning (HVAC) system; and the behavior of occupants.

Products emitting low levels of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) should be considered when selecting interior products. Any VOCs that are emitted from floors containing vinyl are dissipated quickly through normal ventilation. Vinyl products will not adversely impact indoor air quality when installed according to manufacturer’s recommended procedures.

The RFCI FloorScore® (provide link to FloorScore) Indoor Air Quality Certification Program has established indoor air quality standards for hard surface flooring products. Products with emissions below the program’s established emission criteria are considered low-emitting products and receive FloorScore® certification.

A significant indoor air quality advantage of vinyl flooring is that it is impervious to moisture, so spills will not penetrate surfaces where such moisture could lead to microbial growth. Also, a study published in the American Journal of Infection Control (August 2000) supports the use of easy-to-clean surfaces such as vinyl in healthcare settings as a way of controlling pathogens and promoting a sterile environment. This is one of several reasons why vinyl flooring is widely accepted and specified by hospital and healthcare designers.

How do floors containing vinyl behave in accidental fires? Are any potentially harmful gases released when floors containing vinyl burn?

Vinyl has excellent fire performance qualities. Vinyl building products are based on a naturally fire retardant polymer, and some flexible products like vinyl flooring and carpet backing contain non-combustible additives and fillers such as calcium carbonate that further improve the fire performance of the material.

Vinyl is one of the few materials meeting the stringent requirements of the National Electrical Code of the National Fire Protection Association for insulating electrical cords and wires and data transmission cables, even in plenum applications. In addition, floors containing vinyl meet the requirements of relevant national building codes. Carpets are required to pass the Federal Flammability test DOC FF 1-70 which ensures they will not propagate the spread of flame in the early stages of a fire.

The vinyl industry and third-party organizations have conducted research on the combustion toxicity of vinyl products. The contribution of the combustion products from floors containing vinyl to the overall toxic threat of fires containing many types of combustibles is not significant. The Pittsburgh Protocol is a standard test method for evaluating the combustion toxicity of floor covering products. In this test, vinyl flooring is no more toxic than when burning than red oak wood.

Fire scientists recognize that the largest hazard in a fire is carbon monoxide (CO), an odorless asphyxiant gas produced in abundance by all organic materials, natural and synthetic. The mix of gases produced when vinyl products burn is very similar to those of other common materials, including wood and fabric.

Hydrogen chloride (HCl), an irritant gas having a pungent odor, is produced when vinyl burns and is detectable in very small quantities long before it reaches a dangerous concentration. An argument can be made that HCl can act as an early warning that there is a fire, and alert occupants to evacuate. HCl is unique in that its concentration in the air decreases rapidly when it reacts with humidity and most construction surfaces, like cement block, ceiling tile and gypsum board.

The U.S. fire death rate is decreasing, dropping from a rate of 76 per million in the 1940s to 15 per million in the 1990s (by which time vinyl and other plastics had achieved significant market share in numerous applications). This downward trend can be attributed in large part to improved building codes, as well as the broader use of sprinkler systems and smoke detectors. However, the increased use of more fire-retardant materials – like vinyl – deserves part of the credit for this improvement.

Are there any restrictions to disposing of vinyl in landfills?

Typically no, for vinyl flooring manufactured after 1985. In fact, landfills are often lined with vinyl membranes to protect groundwater. This is because the vinyl sheets are long lasting and virtually inert.

Flooring, including sheet vinyl, vinyl or asphalt floor tiles and any associated paper-like underlayment backing, mastic, and asphaltic (cut-back) adhesive manufactured prior to 1985 may contain asbestos and can be sent to approved landfills following the Recommended Work Practices for the Removal of Resilient Floor Coverings. (include link to Recommended Work Practices)

Can commercial floors containing vinyl be recycled? Are they currently being recycled?

As a thermoplastic, vinyl is an inherently recyclable material; when floors containing vinyl are produced, manufacturing scraps are routinely recycled directly back into the process. A number of manufacturers have “take back” programs where previously installed products such as Vinyl Composition Tile are recycled back into resilient flooring.

As with any building product, the key to effective postconsumer vinyl recycling is to find a way to collect, separate and transport materials for recycling cost effectively at the end of their useful life.

What do life cycle studies show about vinyl?

Since the late 1980s, at least 26 life cycle evaluations have been published on vinyl building products, many of them comparing vinyl products to similar products made of other materials. In some cases vinyl has a lighter impact on the environment, in others, it doesn’t. However, vinyl products generally have been found to perform favorably in terms of energy efficiency, thermal-insulating value, low contribution to greenhouse gases and product durability, which means using fewer resources.

The Natural Step (TNS), a highly regarded international organization that uses a science-based, systems framework to help organizations and communities understand and move towards sustainability, evaluated vinyl from its salt and natural gas beginnings through to finished products in the waste stream. In a cover letter accompanying the report, Jonathon Porritt, TNS Chairman, wrote, “It serves little purpose arguing for the elimination of PVC without first assessing the degree to which any substitutes would have a lower ‘sustainability footprint.’ PVC may or may not have a place in a genuinely sustainable future (depending on whether or not it can meet the challenges outlined in our Evaluation), but exactly the same questions must be asked of all materials, be they man-made or natural, before leaping to what are often ill-judged and unscientific conclusions.”

A life cycle analysis (LCA) conducted for the United Kingdom’s Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions showed that vinyl is the best material for some uses and that the differences between the alternatives are small when environmental impacts are considered from the extraction of raw materials to final disposal.

Has vinyl’s environmental performance been endorsed by any international environmental, scientific or government organizations?

When vinyl is evaluated according to unbiased scientific principles, it is often endorsed as an environmentally safe and beneficial material. A few recent examples:

  • CSIRO, Australia’s premier scientific organization, completed a multi-year study in 1998 which determined that vinyl performs as well as or better than alternative building materials environmentally. The German Council of Environmental Advisors, which advises the German government on environmental issues, issued an endorsement of vinyl, revoking its earlier recommendation that substitutes be found. In the early 1990s, the German cities of Berlin, Bielefeld, Chemnitz, Kassel and Osnabruch, the regions of Herzogturn Lauenburg and Westerwald as well as the states of Hessen, Mecklenburg- Vorpommern and Thuringen withdrew their anti-PVC resolutions either fully or in part.
  • Naturvardsverket, Sweden’s environmental protection agency, and Kemikalieinspektionen, its chemicals inspectorate, have reviewed vinyl’s environmental performance in the areas of waste management and additives. In 1998, the Swedish government gave approval for continuing the sustainable development of vinyl, focusing specifically on substitution for some additives and increased recycling.
  • In our own country, the U.S. EPA has recognized many vinyl roofing and windows manufacturers as eligible for their ENERGY STAR® designation for those products that meet agreed-upon energy-efficient criteria.

Why have some companies chosen to replace vinyl with other materials?

Vinyl competes with many materials on a cost/performance basis. For every company that has decided not to use vinyl, numerous others select it as a material of choice – particularly in commercial flooring – because of its proven long-term durability, imperviousness to moisture, low maintenance requirements, cost effectiveness and strong environmental and safety characteristics.

What is the outlook for vinyl?

Vinyl has grown to become the second largest plastic material sold globally and consistently grows year after year in the world market. According to Chemical Market Associates, Inc., North American demand for vinyl should increase more than 3 percent yearly through 2010.

Click here for PLASTICS/PVC Information

References

  1. “Post-Consumer and Post-Industrial Vinyl Reclaim: Material Flow and Uses in North America,” Principia Partners, July 1999.
  2. Presentation by Dr. Marc Boeckx, Tessenderlo Group, the 30th Congress on Occupational and Environmental Health in the Chemical Industry (Medichem 2002), Baltimore, Maryland, Oct. 26-28, 2002.
  3. H. Gregor Rigo, A. John Handler, W. Steven Laurier, “The Relationship Between Chlorine In Waste Streams and Dioxin Emissions From Waste Combustor Stacks,” The American Society of Mechanical Engineers, 1995.
  4. “Dioxin: Summary of the Dioxin Reassessment Science,” Information Sheet 1, U.S. EPA, June 12, 2000.
  5. “Clearing the Air: Asthma and Indoor Air Exposures,” Institute of Medicine Committee on the Assessment of Asthma and Indoor Air, National Academy of Sciences, 2000.
  6. Test for Combustion Product Toxicity, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, Oct. 30, 2002.
  7. W.A. Burgess, R.D. Treitman and A. Gold, “Air Contaminants in Structural Firefighting,” N.F.P.C.A. Project 7X008, Harvard School of Public Health, 1979.
  8. A.F. Grand, H.L. Kaplan and G.H. Lee, “Investigation of Combustion Atmospheres in Real Fires,” U.S.F.A. Project 80027, Southwest Research Institute, 1981.
  9. J.J. Beitel, C.A. Bertelo, W.F. Carroll, R.A. Gardner, A.F. Grand, M.M. Hirschler and G.F. Smith, “Hydrogen chloride transport and decay in a large apparatus. I. Decomposition of poly(vinyl chloride) wire insulation in a plenum by current overload,” J. Fire Sciences, 4, 1986.
  10. C.A. Bertelo, W.F. Carroll, M.M. Hirschler and G.F. Smith, “Thermal decomposition of poly(vinyl chloride). Kinetics of generation and decay of hydrogen chloride in large and small systems and the effect of humidity,” in “Fire Safety Science, Proceedings of the 1st International Symposium,” C.E. Grant and P.J. Pagni, editors, Hemisphere, Washington, 1986.
  11. J.J. Beitel, C.A. Bertelo, W.F. Carroll, R.A. Gardner, A.F. Grand, M.M. Hirschler and G.F. Smith, “Hydrogen chloride transport and decay in a large apparatus: II. Variables affecting hydrogen chloride decay,” J. Fire Sciences, 5, 1987.
  12. F.M. Galloway, M.M. Hirschler and G.F. Smith, “Model for the generation of hydrogen chloride from the combustion of poly(vinyl chloride) under conditions of forcefully minimized decay,” Eur. Polymer J., 25, 1989.
  13. F.M. Galloway, M.M. Hirschler and G.F. Smith, “Surface parameters from small scale experiments used for measuring HCl transport and decay in fire atmospheres,” Fire and Materials, 15, 1992.
  14. “PVC: An Evaluation Using the Natural Step Framework,” The Natural Step, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, UK, July 2000.
  15. “Life Cycle Assessment of Polyvinyl Chloride and Alternatives,” Entec UK Limited and Ecobalance UK, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions: London (now the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs), February 2001.
  16. “Environmental Aspects of the Use of PVC in Building Products, Second Edition,” a study carried out for the Plastics and Chemicals Industries Association, Inc., CSIRO Molecular Science, June 1998.
  17. “Disposal of PVC Waste – Report on a Government Assignment,” Report 4594, Naturvardsverket, and “Additives in PVC; Marking of PVC – Report on Completion of a Government Task,” Kemikalieinspektionen, June 1996.
VINYL FLOORING AND PHTHALATES

The U.S. phthalates industry, represented by the Phthalate Esters Panel of the American Chemistry Council (ACC), is dedicated to the continued safe use of phthalates, a family of compounds primarily used to soften vinyl. Phthalates provide many product and consumer benefits-public health, performance, durability and function-and are used in many important applications for these reasons, from recreational and safety equipment to building and construction materials. Phthalates are among the most thoroughly studied families of compounds in the world and have a long history of safe use.
Phthalates Basics
Phthalates Restrictions
Phthalates and Health

RFCI Mold Statement

Issues concerning mold and mildew are gaining increased attention from both residential and commercial property owners as well as the public at large. In virtually all situations, if there is a mold issue, there is an excessive moisture issue. In order to prevent, control, or remediate mold and mildew, one must first identify, evaluate, and eliminate the source of excessive moisture.

Prior to removing an existing resilient floor following the RFCI Recommended Work Practices for Removal of Resilient Floor Coverings (unless state or local law requires other measures) or installing a new floor, if there are visible indications of mold or mildew or the presence of a strong musty odor in the area where resilient flooring is to be removed or installed, the source of the problem should be identified and corrected before proceeding with the flooring work. Visible signs of mold or mildew such as discoloration can indicate the presence of mold or mildew on the subfloor, on the underlayment, on the back of the flooring, and sometimes even on the floor surface. If mold or mildew is discovered during the removal or installation of resilient flooring, all flooring work should stop until the mold or mildew problem (and any related moisture problem) has been addressed. Before installing the new resilient flooring, make sure the underlayment and/or subfloor is allowed to thoroughly dry and that any residual effect of excessive moisture, mold or structural damage has been corrected.

To deal with mold and mildew issues, you should refer to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines that address mold and mildew. Depending on the mold or mildew condition present, those remediation options range from cleanup measures using gloves and biocide to hiring a professional mold and mildew remediation contractor to address the condition. Resilient flooring, because it is relatively non-porous, allows any mold and mildew on the flooring surface to be easily cleaned. Remediation measures may require structural repairs such as replacing underlayment and/or subfloor contaminated with mold or mildew as a result of prolonged exposure to moisture.

The EPA mold guidelines are contained in two publications “A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture and Your Home” (EPA 402-K-02-003) and “Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings” (EPA 402-K-01 -001). Appendix B of the “Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings” publication describes potential health effects from exposure to mold, such as allergic and asthma reactions and irritation to eyes, skin, nose and throat. These publications can be located on EPA’s website at

http://www.epa.gov/mold/index.html

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Fighting Mold in Your Home or Office:

Controlling Moisture through Better Building Practices
Helpful information on how to avoid mold in your home or office is published by the Responsible Solutions to Mold Coaltion (RSMC), an industry group devoted to educating the public and building industry about effective ways to combat mold in residential and commercial construction. RSMC provides and wealth of information on their interactive website including:
  • What is mold?
  • What causes mold?
  • Can mold cause health problems?
  • How to effectively control mold by controlling moisture.
  • Are mold resistant products the answer?
  • What are some mold avoidance strategies?
  • What should I do if I find mold in my home or office?
  • Common myths about mold.