When you are looking for bamboo flooring and also want to avoid PFAS “forever chemicals,” most companies will tell you they do not add this chemical to their product. But we also know from the Green Science Policy Institute that PFAS is a problem in flooring. So what’s the truth? You can’t find out without sending something to an EPA-certified lab. So that is exactly what Mamavation did. We tested a very popular Bamboo brand, Cali Bamboo, to get to the bottom of this. You’ve trusted Mamavation to bring you topics like best cookware without PFAS & nanoparticles, best organic mattresses without PFAS, & PFAS testing of other products, now join us for laboratory results of Cali Bamboo flooring.
Disclosure: This post was medically reviewed by Sondra Strand, RN, BSN, PHN.
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PFAS “Forever Chemicals” Are Ubiquitous Inside the Home & Common in Flooring
PFAS, otherwise known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (aka PFCs or perfluorinated chemicals, including PFOA and PFOS) are added to many products we purchase to make them “stain-resistant,” “grease-proof,” and “water-resistant.” Here are some of the products you’ll find them in:
- Food packaging: they are used in popcorn bags, pizza boxes, fast food canisters & wrappers, and the flat dish on the bottom of cakes at the grocery store.
- Building Materials: They are also in carpeting, flooring, artificial turf, sealants, & roofing
- Fabrics & Clothing: used on clothing as “stain-proof” and “water-proof” agents & also other fabrics in your home like furniture
- Cookware: You can also find them on non-stick pans
- Kitchen Appliances: Some small kitchen appliances coat PFAS on surfaces to keep things from sticking like most air fryers
- Personal Care: You’ll find them in your personal care like some tooth flosses, and cosmetics
- Menstrual Products (like Period Underwear): You’ll also find them in about 65% of period underwear, according to Mamavation’s own consumer study.
- Mattresses: Even your mattress can contains PFAS chemicals but these types of mattresses.
- Indoor Dust: PFAS chemicals stick to dust particles so the more dust you have in your home, the more likely there is PFAS in the air you breathe.(Click here for our FREE eBook on how to clean your indoor air.)
According to a report by the Green Science Policy Institute on building materials, flooring can contain PFAS. “PFAS are sometimes used to add stain and soil repellency to resilient flooring. PFAS are more commonly used as leveling and wetting agents in after-market floor protectors, finishes, waxes, and polishes.”
So we put this to the test. In terms of pre-finished hardwood flooring like Cali Bamboo, aluminum oxide is infused with polyurethane and cured under UV lights to make them more durable. Typically, this finish is recommended for more sustainable households and those who are chemically sensitive because it’s close or zero-VOC.
However, Mamavation was wondering if this finish, known as their “Fossilized® manufacturing process” could potentially also be cured with PFAS. Cali Bamboo touts their Fossilized® manufacturing process as being the best in the industry to save your flooring from things like dents and backs it with a 50-year warranty.
We reached out to them to ascertain whether PFAS was intentionally used in this process and they told us it was not.
Potential Health Effects of PFAS “Forever Chemicals”
PFAS chemicals are incredibly useful giving us stain repellency, grease repellency, and water repellency, however, they are also very problematic to the environment and human health. The biggest problem is their persistence in the environment, meaning they stay around forever, which is why they were dubbed “forever chemicals” by scientists. According to epidemiologists, no amount of PFAS is safe because it accumulates within the body.
Here is the list of health problems (PFAS) perfluorinated chemicals are linked with.
- reduction in immunity
- metabolic diseases like obesity & diabetes
- reduced vaccination response
- cardiovascular disease
- affect the growth, learning, and behavior of infants and older children
- increased risk of allergies & asthma in young children
- lower a woman’s chance of getting pregnant
- increase the chances of miscarriage
- increase cholesterol levels
- low sperm count
- smaller penis size
- increase the risk of cancer like testicular & kidney cancers
Our government believes PFAS is so problematic, it forced one dairy farmer to euthanize over 4,000 cows that were contaminated with this chemical.
If you feel like you’ve been exposed to PFAS, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a division of Community Health Investigations has created this fact sheet to use when talking to your doctor.
Results of Fluorine Testing for Cali Bamboo Fossilized® Flooring
In May of 2021, an EPA-certified laboratory conducted tests of Total Fluorine by Oxygen Flask Combustion and Ion-Selective Electrode on bamboo flooring from Cali Bamboo.
Understanding how this works is important. There are over 9,200 different PFAS chemicals in commerce, so it’s not possible to test for each one individually. In fact, tests are only available for a couple dozen of these specific chemicals.
So instead, we test for fluorine which is the chemical they all have in common. The higher the levels of fluorine, the more likely it was intentionally added. This is the same standard the food packaging industry has created to certify what is “compostable.” BPI Industries & Compost Manufacturing Alliance certifies food packaging is compostable in this way. We are using this standard because it’s really the only standard out there right now to provide guidance.
Results from Cali Bamboo Flooring:
- Cali Bamboo Bamboo Flooring: 13 parts per million (ppm) fluorine
Conclusion of Testing from Cali Bamboo Fluorine Testing
Because Cali Bamboo Fossilized® manufacturing process was found to have 13 ppm of fluorine, Mamavation cannot recommend this type of flooring to our audience.
However, it’s important to note that the levels we found in Cali Bamboo were not high. Anything under 100 ppm, would be considered “not intentionally added” meaning they may not be purposely adding it to their products and this may be more of an issue of contamination in shipping, processing, or something else. (Ironically, if this was food packaging it could be certified as “compostable” based on those low levels.) But regardless, we still cannot recommend this product.
Other PFAS testing Mamavation has done:
- 17 of the most popular period underwear brands
- In-N-Out Burger
- If You Care Brand Parchment Baking Paper
- Kirkland (Costco) Parchment Paper
- Reynolds Kitchen Parchment Paper
For a list of all the product investigations Mamavation has done go here.