A product may be popular because it functions well, but that doesn’t mean it’s good. Consider asbestos. From exterior siding to interior floors to basement pipe insulation, this material was used all over the average home a few decades ago. Now it’s the main character in many lawsuit television ads, because of its role in premature deaths and crippling illness.
Sadly, some of our most popular materials today, used far and wide, may become the asbestos of the future. Despite warnings, PVC and vinyl is everywhere, with proponents lauding the benefits and downplaying the concerns.
I nearly purchased PVC wall planking for a bathroom remodeling project, and I had decided on vinyl tiles for the floor. I wanted moisture resistance, simple installation, and easy care. Then, after a bit of research, I realized that neither of these materials meet my healthful standards. Both are harmful. Whether the problems be in manufacturing, use, or disposal (including the catastrophic kind called fire or improper incineration), under the right conditions these two offenders deliver some very toxic chemicals to the environment.
Knowing that, I needed to go back and find alternatives. I’m still working on the wallboard. For the floor, I found some “eco-friendly” vinyls on the market, but I also learned that natural linoleum, while often confused with vinyl, is basically an organic material. And while linoleum may require a gentler kind of care, it is also gentler to the things I care about most: people and planet.