A notable percentage of flooring and wallpaper contain substances linked to cancer, learning disabilities, reproductive problems, asthma, and birth defects, a Michigan-based research group announced today.

The Ecology Center of Ann Arbor said roughly 5% of the 1,016 flooring samples it tested contained lead, while more than half of the 2,312 wallpaper samples it checked contained such hazardous chemicals as lead, cadmium, chromium, tin, and mercury.

The Ecology Center posted its findings on its www.HealthyStuff.org website. That same site also contains reports on past research its has done regarding toxic chemicals in children's toys, pet products, cars, women's handbags, back-to-school products, and children's car seats.

The public needs to know that there are practically no restrictions on chemicals used in home improvement products," Jeff Gearhart, the Ecology Center's lead researcher and founder of HealthyStuff.org, said in a statement. "Our testing shows that toxic chemicals show up everywhere in home improvement products. If we don't want these chemicals in our toys, we certainly don't want them in our floors."

Some of the center's findings involve products that are suspected of causing health problems but haven't definitely been banned. One example is phthalates, which in the case of building products may be used to soften PVC products. The center said its tests of flooring samples "contained numerous phthalates, at up to 12.9% by weight. Limited testing for phthalate plasticizers indicates most vinyl flooring contains four phthalate plasticizers recently banned in children's products."

It also reported:

  • Twenty-three of the 731 samples of vinyl sheet flooring had detectable levels of lead, as did 29 of 39 vinyl tile flooring samples.
  • Two-thirds--39 of 61--PVC flooring tiles contained organotin stabilizers. The center said some forms of organotins "are endocrine disruptors; and other forms can impact the developing brain and are toxic to the immune system."
  • Linoleum, cork, bamboo, and hardwood all tested free of lead, cadmium, mercury and other hazardous metals, the center said.
  • Roughly 96% of the wallpapers sampled contained polyvinyl chloride (PVC) coating. "Limited testing for phthalate plasticizers indicates that most PVC wallpaper also contains phthalates plasticizers which are now banned in children's products," the center said.
  • About 18% of the 2,312 wallpaper samples contained at least 40 parts per mission of cadmium, and 13% had levels over 100 ppm. All wallpaper with cadmium was vinyl coated.