Are Floor Coatings Used to Protect Wood Floors Safe? {Interview}

Many of the floor coatings that have been used to protect wood floors contain carcinogenic and toxic chemicals that emit Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) into the air.  This comes from a new report by UL Environment, a global independent safety science company. These solvent-based floor coatings have been used in homes, nurseries, workplaces and schools for decades.

These VOCs harm indoor air quality for months after application, putting consumers and vulnerable populations such as children and pregnant women at an increased risk for health problems.

Consumers are typically unaware that they are being exposed to these VOCs that can cause respiratory and neurological effects and negative impacts on reproductive and developmental health. UL Environment’s report found that solvent-based coatings emit more than 60 chemicals, including high amount of chemicals that can impact a woman’s fertility, have been linked to cancer, and can cause brain damage and birth defects. Less than 17% of the products sold to consumers are safe: out of the 12 products tested by UL Environment representing the vast majority of the products available to U.S. consumers, only 2 qualify as clean floor coatings.

Although efforts to regulate the use of these solvents has increased in recent years, especially in paint and paint products, a number of solvent-based floor coatings are still on the market in the U.S. In addition, many so-called “low VOC” floor coating products still contain chemicals of potential concern, placing consumers at risk.

Recently, I had the privilege of interviewing Andrew Meyer, CEO of Vermont Natural  Coatings, and Scott Steady, Senior Product Manager for UL Environment, and the organization that conducted the study, as they discuss the report findings, the harmful effects of solvent-based floor coatings, what consumers need to know to protect themselves and why water-based floor coatings are the safer choice.

Listen to the entire interview here.

Further info regarding the report:

  • Solvent-based floor coatings emit up to 11 times more volatile organic compounds than clean water-based coatings 24 hours after the last application.
  • Solvent-based coatings still emit more volatile organic compounds 7 days after application than the clean water-based coatings emit after 1 day. Think you and your family is safe waiting for a week after the last application? Wrong. Solvent-based coatings continue emitting VOCs for months afterwards
  • Solvent-based coatings emit more than 60 chemicals, including high amount of chemicals:
    • 2-ethylhexanoic acid Impacts a woman’s fertility
    • Ethylbenzene, Formaldehyde and Acetaldehyde have been linked to cancer
    • Toluene causes brain damage
  • Even traditional water-based coatings emit high amounts of the chemical N-Methylpyrrolidone or “NMP” which is linked to birth defects, including low birth weight and even miscarriage.
  • Less than 17% of the products sold to consumers are safe. Out of the 12 products tested by UL Labs, representing the vast majority of the products available to U.S. consumers, only 2 qualify as clean floor coatings.

Healthier floor coating options:

By choosing a water-based floor coating you can:

1)     Reduce Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

2)     Ensure optimal indoor air quality

3)     Protect the health of family members and contractors

4)     Lower harmful emissions


Scott Steady Bio

Scott Steady is a Senior Product Manager for UL Environment in Atlanta, GA.  He graduated from Louisiana State University with a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering.  He has worked as an air quality consultant helping industrial facilities comply with the EPA’s Clean Air Act regulations.  For the past 15 years, Scott has been working with product manufacturers to help them understand their products impact on chemical exposure and health.  He participated in the development of UL’s GREENGUARD Certification Program and has contributed to internationally recognized emissions standards for office furniture, building products, electronics, and consumer products. 

Contact Information: or 678-444-4056

abm face photo

Andrew Meyer Bio  

Andrew Meyer is founder and president of Vermont Natural Coatings, Inc., manufacturer of patented PolyWhey® whey based wood finishes.  Developed in collaboration with the University of Vermont, PolyWhey has emerged as new wood coatings science, using whey protein to displace toxic ingredients common to traditional wood finishes.  Andrew is a partner in Vermont Soy, LLC producers of organic tofu and owner of the Hardwick Enterprise Group, LLC, which provides business resources to innovative value-added companies. He is a founding board member of the Center for an Agricultural Economy and serves as a trustee of Shelburne Farms.  He is a partner in North Hardwick Dairy, a family organic dairy farm. Andrew, 47, served as Agriculture Legislative Assistant to U.S. Senator James Jeffords in Washington, D.C.  He resides in Hardwick, VT with his wife Mary and children Lila and Fenton.

For more information, go to or

*Infographic and Andrew’s photo courtesy of Vermont Natural Coatings, Inc.

*Scott’s photo courtesy of UL Environment


Cynthia Tait

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