By Martin Solomon
The color schemes of iQ vinyl flooring are designed to match those of Ecolibrium, Johnsonite's NSF-332 Platinum certified wall base.
Vinyl may be the most common resilient flooring used in buildings due to its low upfront cost and durability, but green builders have tried to steer clear of it because of toxicity concerns throughout its life cycle. Now Johnsonite’s homogeneous iQ flooring line, available in both sheet and tile, is getting some notice as the only vinyl flooring to achieve Platinum certification under the NSF-332 standard for resilient flooring. To get there, Johnsonite has made strides in addressing many of the health and environmental issues associated with vinyl flooring. Do Johnsonite’s efforts, and the Platinum certification, allow the iQ (for “intelligent quality”) line to transcend the “vinyl” label? We have some doubts.
A huge issue with most vinyl flooring is the use of petroleum-based phthalate plasticizers. Commonly used phthalates are endocrine disruptors and reproductive and developmental toxicants. Emerging evidence also links phthalates to respiratory problems, such as asthma. Earlier this year, Tarkett (the international parent of Johnsonite) announced that phthalates will be removed from all of Johnsonite’s vinyl flooring (see “Phthalate-Free Vinyl Flooring One Step Closer to Mainstream
March 2012). In most of the iQ lines, the phthalate plasticizers have been replaced by a synthetic stand-in, but in iQ Natural the replacement is a plant-based plasticizer formulated by Tarkett from castor oil. As a result, 15% of iQ Natural is biobased content. Although stepping away from petroleum-based products is a good move, biobased products are not a panacea, and they come with their own issues (see “Biobased Materials: Not Always Greener
May 2012). Johnsonite didn’t provide
with more specifics on the chemicals involved in these plasticizers, so we can’t say anything about their relative safety.