Largest-ever study of chemicals in home improvement products finds lead, phthalates, cadmium, organotins and other harmful ingredients -

A non-profit organization in the US has carried out a study on over 1000 flooring samples and nearly 2300 samples of wallpaper to find that many of them contain substances linked to asthma, birth defects, reproductive problems, liver toxicity and cancer. The Ecology Center’s lead researcher, also founder of, says, “The public needs to know that there are practically no restrictions on chemicals used in home improvement products”. These products were tested for chemicals based on their toxicity or tendency to build up in people and the environment.

  • Several studies have found phthalates, used in wallpaper and floorings, to be harmful to children. One of these, a Swedish study, has found that children who live in homes with vinyl flooring are twice as likely to have autism (Larsson 2008*). Another, Kolarik 2008**, found an association between concentration of phthalates in indoor dust and wheezing among pre-school children. People spend much of their time indoors, at home, and children and animals spend much of their time close to the floor and are therefore especially vulnerable.
  • Lead was detected 52 of the 1,016 samples of flooring.
  • Organotin stabilizers, which disrupt the endocrine system and can impact the developing brain and immune system, were found in 64% of the PVC flooring tiles tested.
  • 53% of wallpaper samples contained one or more hazardous chemicals including lead, cadmium, chromium, tin and antimony.

The good news is that the study has found many products do not contain dangerous substances, proving that safe home improvement materials can be made. In response to increasing demand for legislation on safer products, the Safe Chemicals Act is currently being overhauled in the United States Senate.

The full home improvement database and more information about what consumers can do is available at

*Larsson, M. et al. 2008. Associations between indoor environmental factors and parental- reported autistic spectrum disorders in children 6-8 years of age. Neurotoxicology doi:10.1016/j.neuro.2009.01.011

**Kolarik 2008

Source: Healthy Stuff

Click here for more research reports

First Pulished in 2010

Top of page