Flooring Adhesives: The Overlooked Danger

While flooring itself can contain many hazardous chemicals, there also are significant risks associated with flooring adhesives. Many types of flooring require adhesives in order to be properly installed.

Common types of adhesives include acrylic/latex, epoxy resins, polyurethane, mortars, grouts and cementitious adhesives, and silicone. Adhesives usually contain a wide variety of plasticizers, fillers, thickeners, surfactants, and hardeners.

Biocides are commonly added to these products to inhibit the growth of microbes. See the ceramic tile flooring section for more on antimicrobial health risks.

Healthier approaches include carpet adhesives already attached to the carpet backing similar to double-sided tape. These “peel-and-stick” adhesives have relatively low VOC off-gassing. Some types of flooring can be installed through mechanical means such as staples, nails, or tongue and groove mechanisms, often called “floating flooring.” These fasteners eliminate the need to use any chemicals.

Type of Adhesive​ Chemicals of  Concerns Health Concerns Used with​
Acrylic/Latex (water based) Phthalates (still remain in some; most use healthier benzoate plasticizers) Reproductive,  developmental effects, repiratory problems Carpet, vinyl, engineered wood
Epoxy  Bisphenol A (BPA), nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs) PBT, cancer, endocrine and reproductive disruptor, respiratory irritation, gene mutation Linoleum, vinyl 
Polyurethane Isocyanates, organotin, petroleum distillates, dibutyltin PBT, cancer, birth defects, asthma trigger Vinyl 
Mortars, Grouts, Cementitious Systems Silica Developmental and reproductive toxicity, endocrine disruptor Ceramic tile
Ceramic Antimicrobials, heavy metal contaminates  in imported tiles PBT, bacterial  resistance, endocrine disruption Buy U.S.-made products, buy unglazed tiles, avoid antimicrobials.
Silicone Cyclosiloxanes, organotin catalysts, VOCs, dibutylin dilaurate PBT, reproductive toxicity, endocrine disruptor, infertility Laminate, linoleum, vinyl, engineered wood, ceramic tile, carpet