What is dioxin?

Dioxin is one of the most highly carcinogenic pollutants. Vinyl products will not release dioxin inside a home unless they are incinerated.

Many people who have been part of the sustainable building movement are familiar with dioxin, and its relationship with vinyl. Considered one of the most highly carcinogenic pollutants, dioxin is created by many phenomena, including forest fires, diesel engine exhaust, and even wood-burning fireplaces. With vinyl, it has the potential to be released during the manufacturing process, and then again if the flooring product is incinerated in a particular temperature range. The argument goes that since most vinyl floors will end up in a landfill, and there are over 8,000 fires per year in US landfills, vinyl contributes to overall dioxin levels.

Developments with vinyl, and particularly vinyl flooring, have made the debate over dioxin much more nuanced, to where many authorities in sustainable building take a less severe stance against it. It is important to note some realities about vinyl flooring today:

  • Rigid plank products contain 60-70% limestone, and 30-40% PVC. This mix of limestone and PVC means the product takes much longer to burn and release dioxin.
  • Safety standards at vinyl manufacturing facilities have improved dramatically over the last 10 years. Cases in which vinyl manufacturing lead to high dioxin levels in nearby communities have dramatically decreased, due to increased regulation and industry standards.
  • Dioxin is never released inside a home unless it burns. Even if there were a fire in your home and you were exposed to dioxin, testing on rats has shown that over 500 grams must be ingested every day for over 100 days before developing cancer. These kind of quantities are virtually impossible to be consistently exposed to.
  • Vinyl recycling is the future. There are already major recycling facilities in Europe, and with the massive rise in popularity of vinyl flooring, there are developments for US-based facilities. With regulation evolving, it is very likely that by the time your new vinyl floors have to be disposed of, there will be affordable (if not required) methods of disposal, that eliminate the risk of vinyl incineration in landfills.
  • Vinyl floors last a long time (especially durable vinyl floors with thick wear-layers). Because of their durability, vinyl flooring can last 2-3 times as long as similar resilient flooring products. This means less flooring in landfills and ultimately lower impact on health and environmental concerns.