We’ve come to expect irresponsible attacks on vinyl material – with no scientific basis whatsoever – by those driven by agenda, who callously perpetuate misleading characterizations in the discourse, in place of thoughtful, fact-based analysis.
But it’s a sad day when academic scientists, such as Columbia University’s Pam Factor-Litvak, join these ranks, and disregard their professional responsibilities by making speculative, unsupported and unscientific statements to consumers in promoting their research.
A recent study by Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health asserted a connection between phthalate exposure and childhood thyroid dysfunction and depression. In the press release touting the report’s findings, senior author Pam Factor-Litvak stated: “Parents with young children should avoid using products containing phthalates such as shampoos, nail polish, and vinyl flooring.”
Ms. Factor-Litvak’s statement caught our attention, so we went through her study to review her analysis of vinyl flooring, so that we might better understand how she arrived at such a declarative conclusion about the material.
But it wasn’t there. In fact, her study contained no reference at all to vinyl flooring throughout the entire 18-page report. The only substantive reference to DINP, the most common phthalate in vinyl flooring, related to a singular review of DINP exposure from “foodstuffs” in Taiwanese children.
Now, unless people are ingesting vinyl flooring (which we don’t recommend), we’re puzzled how Ms. Factor-Litvak could make any correlation at all between this research and the safety of vinyl flooring. It made us wonder … Why would Ms. Factor-Litvak advise consumers to categorically avoid vinyl flooring – nail polish and shampoo, too, for that matter – and offer no evidence regarding actual phthalate exposure levels (or lack thereof) for these products?
It’s a safe bet Ms. Factor-Litvak isn’t aware that the state of California – known for applying some of the strictest chemical regulations in the nation – concluded in 2016 that exposure to DINP from vinyl flooring containing amounts below their determined “Safe Use” threshold poses no significant health risk to homeowners.
California arrived at this “Safe Use” determination because scientists took the time to review the material. They conducted the research. They performed the requisite analysis. And they backed up their conclusions. With actual data.
Yet, despite this, the vinyl industry has elected to move away from some types of phthalates due to consumer/customer concerns driven in large measure to agenda-driven statements advanced by some in the research community – who should know better. However, phthalates remain the plasticizer of choice in thousands of current vinyl applications, because they are safe, cost effective and functional.
Consumers should be allowed to make sound, informed decisions about the products they use that are safe and effective and add tremendous convenience to their everyday lives. And scientists certainly don’t have the right to influence those decisions by making baseless statements that incite public fear, with no supporting facts to back their claims.
We can only surmise that Ms. Factor-Litvak chose to vilify nail polish, shampoo, and vinyl flooring out of the blue, simply to promote awareness of her study, and make the subject of her complex report (i.e. phthalates) seem more relatable to the average reader.
Ms. Factor-Litvak would be better served if she did a more thorough investigation of all resources prior to publishing and promoting a flawed research treatise.