Protect IAQ During Carpet Installation
Low-VOC adhesives are a safer choice
VOCs can lurk in virtually every corner of your building, but you may have overlooked a source right under- neath your feet – carpet adhesives. These glues can emit toxic chemicals that cause more than an annoying odor. To avoid IAQ issues, choose water-based adhesives, products that carry the Green Label Plus certification or glue-free systems. The right choice is the safe choice.
Green Label Plus
As there are no industry flooring standards that mandate VOC
levels, look for third-party certifications. Offered by the Carpet and
Rug Institute (CRI) and accredited by ANSI, Green Label Plus measures and limits VOC emissions for carpet, adhesive and cushion
products. Created in 1992, the label is so widely used that “95% of
carpet meets the Green Label Plus program’s thresholds for VOCs,”
says Paul Tucker, CRI Communications Coordinator.
This voluntary certification is recognized by ASHRAE 189.1, the
International Green Construction Code and CalGreen. Green Label
Plus-certified products may also contribute one point for low-emitting materials under LEED v4, adds Tucker.
Tested by an independent laboratory with protocols developed
by the EPA and ASTM, the screening looks for 35 compounds iden-
tified in California’s Section 01350, including chloroform, ethylene
glycol, formaldehyde, styrene and toluene. It also evaluates seven
components specific to adhesives, such as benzothiazole, methyl
biphenyl and vinyl cyclohexene. All of these chemicals have been
documented by the CDC and various medical studies as potential
carcinogens, neurotoxins, endocrine disruptors and teratogens
(which cause birth defects).
Products must pass a 14-day test window to ensure released
compounds are below specified total VOC (TVOC) levels and
yearly retesting is also required. Major brands such as Mannington,
Beaulieu, Roppe, Forbo, Gerflor, Mohawk, Shaw, Tandus, Milliken,
Bentley Mills and Tarkett all have certified adhesives.
In the absence of an eco-label, specify water-based adhesives.
Solvent-based formulas contain a number of polymers that are
typically the culprit of VOC emissions. The water-based versions
also tend to cure faster and can be safer for workers to handle.
If a health or environmental product declaration is available, look
for TVOC by volume. You can use the limit specified in the LEED
IEQ credit for adhesives and sealants as a benchmark: 50 grams per
liter or 0.4 pounds per gallon. You can also request products that
are tested per ASTM D2369 or D6886-03 or ISO 11890.
Even though the risk is low that inhaling adhesive fumes could
result in serious complications, short-term exposure can cause
headaches, nausea and irritation to respiratory tissues. These can
decrease concentration and ultimately lower productivity. Relocate
employees from the area and use ventilation to significantly dissipate obtrusive odors and lingering VOCs.