03 Dec Part Two: Cork 2010-Style
Does a material that naturally resists mold need Microban?
The definitive answer isn’t proven. But USFloors has made up its mind.
USFloors, in addition to Qu-Cork supplier Global Market Partners, added Microban – a mold inhibitor – to their cork flooring products some time ago. While Qu-Cork still feels this was a cutting-edge move, USFloors has decided to focus on other ways to lead.
At issue, says USFloors Marketing Director Gary Keeble Jr., are concerns about unknown, long-term effects of Triclosan – a bacteria killer that is used in Microban and many consumer products, including toothpaste. While the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have approved Triclosan, both agencies have called for more review of the chemical in light of studies that show it alters hormone regulation in animals and might contribute to making bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics.
“Cork is naturally resistant to mold and mildew, which is one benefit of the cork underlayment on our floating floors,” Keeble says (www.usfloorsllc.com). “The void between the floor and subfloor is a prime candidate for mold growth and the underlayment inhibits the growth. With this natural resistance to mold and mildew, it doesn’t make sense to add cost and chemistry to the floor when it’s not necessary.”
Qu-Cork suppliers disagree. The notion that Triclosan poses danger “is crazy,” says R. Lanny Trottman, president of Global Market Partners (www.qucork.com). “The chemical is harmless. See the Microban website. Many of the most environmentally friendly companies in the world use it.”
In order for mold to grow on or under a floor, moisture has to be present. According to the EPA, mold affects more than a million homes nationwide with adverse impact on health and property values. The EPA has slated a “comprehensive review” of Triclosan for 2013.
Other cork experts participating in this blog said their companies are not considering the addition of an antimicrobial agent because cork naturally resists mold and mildew growth.
“It’s not necessary …,” says Theresa Cesario, executive assistant at Wicanders (www.wicanders.com). “They are probably only doing this because the public likes to hear ‘Microban.’ ”
The dangers of mold and bacteria growth have been distorted when it comes to cork, says Randy Gillespie, Expanko Cork spokesman, (www.expanko.com).
“With all of the marketing in interior materials directed to healthcare, the issue of supporting mold or mildew growth is a hot item to address with the specifier (who selects the product),” Gillespie says. “Natural products, like cork, can have attributes that do not require the addition of chemicals or vinyl wear layers to add value.”
—Nancy Kibbee is editor at naturalinteriors.com.