Is rubber flooring safe for healthcare?

Rubber flooring can trigger concerns with toxic contaminants in the manufacturing process, as well as in the final product

By Healthcare Facilities Today
November 13, 2013

In a recent Healthcare Designed blog, interior designer Christie Meyer imagined how she's feel if she were a cancer patient and read a warning about the potential toxicity of the materials used in the infusion area.

"The irony of it would almost be funny if it weren’t so disgusting," Meyer wrote. "I have been doing a lot of research into the toxicity of the flooring materials we specify. A lot of research has been done on resilient sheet flooring specifically and the reports are alarming."

According to the Resilient Flooring & Chemical Hazards report, styrene butadiene rubber (SBR) flooring is an improvement over PVC but still heavily laden with hazards, the blog said. Like PVC, its manufacture includes a substantial amount of PBTs (persistent bioaccumulative toxicants), but there is more potential to remove PBTs through reformulation than is achievable with PVC.  Still, the primary compound used in synthetic rub­ber – styrene butadiene – is dependent upon two carcinogen feedstocks, leaving it also with unavoid­able serious High Hazard chemicals in its life cycle. 

"Rubber flooring materials trigger concerns with toxic contaminants in the manufacturing process, as well as in the final product, including the use of hazard­ous flame retardants. Use of recycled rubber flooring may also raise concern because of its potentially high toxic content," she wrote.

"There are only a handful of flooring types available to healthcare designers so it is important that we voice our concerns and demand better products. When considering synthetic rubber floors, be wary of marketing hype. Don’t be afraid to stump your sales reps with tough questions. If there is one thing I have found, they are more than willing to dig up answers," Meyer wrote.

Read the blog.




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