Non Toxic Wall Paper – Are There Vinyl Free, PVC Free Wallpaper?

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Non Toxic Wall Paper

Non Toxic Wall Paper – Are There Vinyl Free, PVC Free Wallpaper?

 

My husband and I were going to paint my daughter’s room for a change.  However, my husband suggested to use a removable wallpaper instead.  Removable wallpaper which is a peel and stick wall paper is easier and more convenient to install in the room than painting a room.  We have gone through numerous renovations at our home for a long period of time so we wanted to make our next project simple and easy.  While researching about peel and stick wallpaper, I was surprised to find that many wallpapers are made or coated with PVC.  PVC is polyvinyl chloride or vinyl, the most toxic plastic material.  PVC emits toxic volatile organic compounds into the air we breathe in.  It may especially be hazardous for young kids to breathe in a room that is covered with PVC.  I certainly didn’t want my daughter’s room to be covered with a PVC material.  Not only that, wallpaper can also be toxic from its inks or adhesives.  In this post, I share with you, how wallpaper can be toxic and what non toxic wallpaper option is available.

 

 

How Wallpaper Can Be Toxic

Wall coverings vary in material. Materials used for wall coverings include vinyl, paper, textile, glass, bamboo, non-woven, etc. The most common wall coverings are vinyl wallpaper, vinyl coated paper or fabric. Vinyl (PVC) based or coated wallpaper is the most popular option in wall coverings since it is durable, easy to clean, easy to hang and remove.   

 

Wallpaper Material, PVC (Vinyl)

As you look for wallpaper, you will notice that many wallpapers are made with PVC (polyvinyl chloride or also called vinyl).  Since paper wallpaper can be hard to protect or clean, PVC is often used to coat the paper to make it more durable and easier to clean.  There are different types of wallpapers but PVC or PVC coated wallpaper is the most commonly used wallpaper.  You may have heard that plastic is harmful in many ways.  However, PVC is the most hazardous plastic out of all plastics. It is made not only with toxic chemicals but also often contains plasticizers.  The most common plasticizers used in PVC are phthalates.  Phthalates are endocrine disruptors and are linked to obesity, developmental issues, breast cancer, asthma, decreased fertility.  Research shows that phthalates such as BBP may have caused cancer in animals and DEHP is confirmed to cause cancer.  The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies DEHP as a possible carcinogen.   DINP also caused tumors in animals and California has added it in its California Proposition 65 list as a chemical thats  known to cause a cancer.

PVC has high chlorine content.  About 57% of the mass of PVC is chlorine.  PVC also contains dangerous chemical additives such as lead, cadmium, etc.  These highly poisonous chemicals get released into the air we breathe in from the wallpaper over time.  According to an article by the Eco Watch, one PVC shower curtain can release as many as 108 volatile organic compounds into the air and some of these chemicals are known to cause damage to the liver, respiratory, reproductive, central nervous systems.  PVC also releases toxic dioxins and severely damage our environment when PVC products are burned and buried after disposal.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advises that there is no safe level of dioxin exposure.  GreenPeace calls PVC the poison plastic.  Healthy Child Healthy World also calls PVC as the most toxic plastic. 

 

 

Wallpaper Adhesives

Wallcoverings whether they are paper or non woven wallpaper, are applied on the wall using an adhesive.  They can have the following application method: non-pasted, pre-pasted or self adhesive (peel and stick). If you have wallpaper that has non-pasted application, you will have to get an wallcovering adhesive. Pre-pasted wallpaper already comes with wallpaper paste applied on the back of the wallpaper so you do not have to get a wallpaper adhesive separately.  You can simply use water to activate pre-pasted adhesive for application.  Peel and stick self-adhesive is like a sticker.  You can easily remove and reposition peel and stick wallpaper.   

Wallcovering adhesives can be cellulose-based, wheat-based, clay-based (including starches) or vinyl over vinyl adhesives which contain synthetic chemicals to bond vinyl.  Vinyl over vinyl adhesives can contain higher levels of volatile compounds (VOCs) compared to the other types of adhesives.  Depending on a wallpaper material, you may need a different type of wallpaper paste.  Some materials may need an increased adhesion than adhesion that standard adhesives offer. Therefore, you may want to check your wallpaper if it has adhesive requirements.

On another note, mold or bacteria can grow under the wallpaper.  Therefore, most wallpaper adhesives contain biocides to kill fungal or bacterial growth.  The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines biocides as “a diverse group of poisonous substances including preservatives, insecticides, disinfectants, and pesticides used for the control of organisms that are harmful to human or animal health or that cause damage to natural or manufactured products”.  Most of the biocidal active substances have a high toxicity although there are some biocides with low toxicity.  Some chemicals in biocides are endocrine disruptors or carcinogens and they also damage our environment.  Formaldehyde which is used as a disinfectant in biocides is a carcinogen.  There are wallpaper adhesives that are free of biocides.  However, biocides-free adhesives may result in mold or bacterial growth.  According to the NBC News, molds and fungi under the wallpaper produce mycotoxins and they can easily enter your lungs when they become airborne.   If you use healthier adhesives with no biocides, you may risk having and growing mold behind the wallpaper.  If you choose vinyl adhesives, toxic chemicals will off-gas over period of time which can be unhealthy.  The best choice may be to go with adhesives (no vinyl) that contain biocides with low toxicity if you are purchasing an adhesives for non-pasted wallpapers.  According to BuildingClean.org, peel and stick adhesives on removable wallpapers is a less toxic alternative to wet applications which can grow mold.

 

 

Wallpaper Inks

You may have or may have not heard of arsenic wallpapers in Victorian age that made people sick.  There was a terrible incident where children tore down wallpaper and licked a green substance from its surface and died from arsenic poisoning.  Victorian wallpaper also released flakes of arsenic into the air or arsenical gas when conditions were damp and people got sick. Nowadays, most of the printing industry use solvent-based inks.  Solvent-based inks are made of pigments mixed in a liquid base of solvents.  According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), organic solvents are carbon-based and can be carcinogens, reproductive hazards, and neurotoxins.  Organic solvents are used in printing inks, paints, adhesives, glues, dyes, textiles, etc. benzene, 2-ethoxyethanol, n-hexane and toluene are some examples of organic solvents.  Solvent-based ink contain harmful chemicals that are hazardous to your health and our environment.  Toxic chemicals from solvent-based ink can emit harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs).  Alternatives to solvent-based ink are water-based ink and latex ink.

 

 

Non Toxic WallPaper 

 

Wallpaper Materials 

For non toxic wallpapers, avoid PVC (vinyl), PVC coated paper or PVC coated fabric.  
Some non toxic wallpaper materials that are free of PVC (vinyl) are as follows.

 

Non woven 

Non -woven wallpaper is made of a blend of natural and synthetic fibers and they are free of PVC.  They are breathable which reduces the risk of mold.  They are also washable.  Non woven wallpapers comes non-pasted, pre-pasted or peel and stick application.  

You may hear easy-walls wallpaper. Easy-walls wallpaper is non woven and free of PVC. The ink is water based. They are breathable.  They are usually pre-pasted or peel and stick.

 

Paper 

Recycled or Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified papers are also PVC free.  Check paper wallpaper is not coated with PVC (vinyl). 

 

Woven (fabric)

Woven wallpapers are made of linen, cotton, silk, polyester, sisal, etc.  Just be sure that the wallpapers are not coated with PVC (vinyl).  They are breathable.

 

 

Wallpaper Adhesives

If you choose a non-pasted (traditional) wallpaper, you will need to get an adhesive separately.  Avoid vinyl adhesives, and adhesives with high biocides.  If wallpaper of your choice is not breathable, mold could develop with an adhesive that contain no biocides. Therefore, adhesives with low biocides may be better than no biocides.  Pasted-wallpapers, on the other hand, already have an adhesive on the back of the wallpaper and the adhesive can be activated with water.  Unless indicated by the manufacturer, it is often hard to know what type of adhesive is used.  If I were to get a pasted-wallpaper, I would get it from a reputable, eco-friendly company that carry non toxic wallpapers, same with peel and stick wallpapers.  Some easy-walls wallpapers (non-woven PVC-free wallpapers that have water-based ink) have pre-pasted application. Peel and stick adhesives are supposedly less toxic than adhesives with wet applications. 

 

 

Wallpaper Inks

Avoid solvent-based inks. Choose wallpapers with water-based or latex ink option.

 

 

Recycled or FSC Certified Paper WallPaper

SpoonFlower‘s wallpapers use Forest Steward Council certified paper.  Their wallpaper is free of PVC, formaldehyde, phthalates. The wallpaper also uses eco-friendly water-based ink.  SpoonFlower carries variety of wallpapers and they are made in the USA. 

 

SpoonFlower Peel and Stick Removable Wallpaper – Non Toxic Wallpaper

Material:  FSC certified paper (PVC free)

Adhesive: Peel and Stick adhesive

Ink: Eco-friendly water-based ink

Made In: USA

More Info

 

 

 

 

Spoonflower Non-Pasted Wallpaper – Non Toxic Wallpaper

Material: FSC Certified, PVC free paper

Adhesive: Not-pasted

Ink: Eco-friendly water-based ink

Made In: USA

More Info

 

 

 

Spoonflower Pre-Pasted Removable Wallpaper – Non Toxic Wallpaper

Material: FSC Certified, PVC free paper

Adhesive: Pre-pasted

Ink: Eco-friendly water-based ink

Made In: USA

More Info

 

 

 

Spoonflower Pre-Pasted Nursery And Playroom Wallpaper – Non Toxic Wallpaper

Material: FSC Certified, PVC free paper

Adhesive: Pre-pasted

Ink: Eco-friendly water-based ink

Made In: USA

More Info

 

 

 

 

 

Non-Woven Wallpaper

 

Blooming Wall Extra-Thick Modern Non-Woven Leaf Flows Pattern Wallpaper – Non Toxic Wallpaper

Material: Non-woven that doesn’t contain VOC. 

Adhesive: Not Prepasted

Ink: water-based ink

More Info

 

 

 

 

 

Non Toxic Wallpaper Adhesive

Methyl cellulose is a chemical derived from cellulose. Cellulose is the substance found in the walls of plant cells. Methyl cellulose is non toxic and non allergen.

 

Methylcellulose Powder for Glue & Wallpaper Paste – Non Toxic Wallpaper Paste

This is food grade methyl cellulose powder that can be used to make glue and wallpaper paste.

More Info

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final Thoughts

According to an article by the BuildingClean.org, a study by the National Institutes of Health found that replacing vinyl wall coverings with eco-friendly ones reduced formaldehyde levels emitted in the air and decreased skin irritation, especially in children.  Wallpaper usually surround your walls.  Therefore, if you have a toxic wallpaper with toxic inks and adhesives on your walls, you and your family may be inhaling volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted into the air.  There are so many things in the household that contribute to air quality including furniture and household products.  Choosing an eco-friendly,  non toxic wallpaper is not only better for your home but also for our environment.  For my daughter’s room, I have decided to go with Spoon Flower’s nursery collection.  Hope my daughter loves the wallpaper in her room.

 

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