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Flooring materials as a key factor for our health.

This article is an excerpt of the paper “Modeling VOC Concentration Levels from Different Flooring Materials”

This article is an excerpt of the paper “Modeling VOC Concentration Levels from Different Flooring Materials” by Laura Ampollini, Bryan Berman and Jon March.

This study was developed to analyze how the indoor concentration of three VOCs (cyclohexane, toluene, 1,2-dichlorobenzene) varies in a room when it is outfitted with three common flooring materials: carpet, vinyl and ceramic tile.

Indoor flooring materials act, therefore, as a source of VOCs and contribute to the quality of indoor air. The level of VOCs in indoor air may cause odor annoyance and several health effects such as eye irritation, respiratory irritation, headaches and weariness.
Considering the well-known negative effects of VOC exposure, it is important to understand how flooring materials influence indoor VOC concentration. In fact, understanding which flooring materials promote sorption and, in particular, choosing a flooring type that emits a low level of VOCs into the air could be proven to be beneficial for work productivity and human health.

Table 1- Mass of particles on carpet, vinyl and ceramic tile

Carpet, the most absorptive material, has the lowest levels of concentration, followed by the models with vinyl and tile, while the model without sorptive flooring has the highest levels of concentration. This inverse relationship is due to the fact that materials with stronger sorptive characteristics contain higher masses of deposited particles on their surfaces. This can be seen, in fact, in Table 1, which shows that carpet has the highest mass of deposited particles, followed by vinyl and then tile.

This deposited particle mass represents a potential source for future VOC emission and thus should be minimized. Therefore, even though the concentration of VOCs in indoor air decreases with the presence of more sorptive materials, there are more VOC particles present on the material’s surface which can be emitted back into the air through desorption.