What is the FloorScore program?

By Baila Floors |

What is the FloorScore program?

FloorScore is a voluntary, independent certification program that tests and certifies hard surface flooring and associated products for compliance with criteria adopted in California for indoor air emissions of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) with potential health effects. The program uses a small-scale chamber test protocol and incorporates VOC emissions criteria developed by the California Department of Health Services, which are widely known as California Section 01350 (See CA/DHS/EHLRB/R-174 accessible at www.dhs.ca.gov/ehlb/IAQ/VOCS/Practice.html).The FloorScore program was developed by the Resilient Floor Covering Institute (RFCI, www.rfci.com) in collaboration with Scientific Certification Systems (SCS, www.scscertified.com) following several years of extensive testing of flooring products produced by resilient flooring manufacturers. The program incorporates California Section 01350 procedures and requirements and adapts them to the certification of flooring products for use in typical buildings.

Is FloorScore open to all flooring manufacturers?

The FloorScore program is open to both members of RFCI and to other manufacturers for the certification of hard surface flooring and associated products with respect to their emissions of VOCs.

How is the certification program organized and administered?

RFCI controls the FloorScore program name and logo. SCS acts as the third-party certifier ensuring program integrity and independence. As part of certification, SCS (1) works with the manufacturer to identify the appropriate samples for testing; (2) reviews VOC emission test reports generated by independent testing laboratories for individual candidate products; (3) determines if the test results meet the California Section 01350 requirements for individual VOCs of concern; and (4) periodically inspects manufacturing plants to review product formulas, processing, and quality control in order to define the permitted use of the FloorScore seal. Manufacturers contract with approved emissions testing laboratories for their own testing services and pay a fee to RFCI to cover the costs of administering and managing the program.

How frequently are products collected and tested?

The FloorScore program recognizes the value of good quality control within a manufacturing environment and uses this to limit the collection and testing of a product to once per year. This typically results in significant cost savings for independent testing and internally for product sample collection and management. At the same time, documentation through a quality control system ensures the consistency of the product being tested. Flooring manufacturers must establish, document, and maintain a written quality control plan for the certified product, as a means of ensuring that product conforms to the certification program.

What systems and controls are used to select, collect and document product samples?

Requirements for product sample selection, collection and handling are specified in detail. Samples are wrapped and packaged to preserve their chemical integrity as prescribed, and air shipped to the laboratory. Collection, handling and shipping are documented using internationally recognized chain-of-custody procedures.

Are the testing and data analysis procedures open and transparent?

The product testing practice was developed by the California Department of Health Services indoor air quality research staff with input from other environmental scientists. It is publicly available and follows the guidance of ASTM D5116 for small-scale chamber testing of products. It also details the procedures required to test product samples for their emissions of individual VOCs in environmental chambers to calculate VOC emission factors. The practice then specifies scenarios for typical school classrooms and offices that are used to estimate concentrations of the measured VOCs in buildings.

How are tests conducted and what parameters are measured in the laboratory?

The testing practice uses a ten-day conditioning period followed by a 4-day test period at defined conditions. This 14-day exposure period provides emission data characteristic of a product appropriate for assessing the product's potential indoor air quality impacts. The test measures chamber concentrations of individual VOCs appearing on California lists of chemical substances that have potential health effects due to long-term exposures. Abundant compounds also are identified and measured. Only those compounds that can be analyzed by the prescribed widely used VOC EPA and ASTM methods are included. Individual VOCs are analyzed using multi-point calibration curves prepared with pure compounds. Laboratories must operate under an audited quality system.

Why doesn't the FloorScore program use total VOCs as a product performance metric?

The measurement of total VOCs (TVOC) is specific to the product studied and, at best, can be used to compare the emissions of products that emit a similar profile of VOCs. Since the TVOC measurement is mixture dependent, large uncertainties are associated with comparisons across different product types with different emission characteristics. Thus, TVOC is inappropriate as a metric for determining the acceptability of VOC emissions in a program that encompasses many product types. In addition, a Nordic scientific panel extensively reviewed the literature on TVOC and health and concluded that there is “an inadequate scientific basis on which to establish limit values or guidelines for TVOC both for air concentrations and for emissions from building materials” (Andersson et al., I997, Indoor Air, vol. 7, pp. 78-91). As recognized by the California EPA Integrated Waste Management Board, “TVOCs cannot be used to indicate potential health effects” (CIWMB, November 2003, Building Material Emissions Study, p. 3).

How is the laboratory data analyzed?

Data analysis follows the guidance of ASTM D5116. The measured chamber VOC concentrations are used to calculate VOC emission factors. Proprietary models and those models making assumptions about emission decay profiles are avoided. The emission factors are then used to estimate VOC concentrations in school classrooms and offices due to emissions from the product. Standardized building scenarios are provided for these calculations so products can be evaluated on an equitable basis.

What laboratory data is provided to participating manufacturers?

Manufacturers contract directly with an emission testing laboratory for services. The laboratory is required to provide the client with the complete test data including the chamber conditions and the measured chamber concentrations of target VOCs. Test and data analysis procedures must be disclosed. Laboratory test reports are examined by SCS for compliance with procedures.

What is the basis of the VOC criteria used for product certification?

The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) has an active program to develop chronic toxicity guidelines for air pollutants. The program uses widely accepted procedures developed by the U.S. EPA and includes extensive peer review and public comment. Only toxicity data are used in the assessment. To date, the program has developed Chronic Reference Exposure Levels (CRELs) for 78 chemical substances, a number of which can be analyzed by the specified methods and are potentially emitted by building products (www.oehha.ca.gov). The CRELs are concentrations that assume long-term exposures and include a number of conservative uncertainty factors. These guidelines provide a strong scientific basis for the FloorScore program. For a product to qualify for certification, its estimated VOC concentrations for classrooms and offices must not exceed one-half the CREL concentrations under the assumption that other products in a building also may be sources of the same compounds.

Are there special criteria for formaldehyde and acetaldehyde?

CRELs are developed without concern for practical issues. The CREL for formaldehyde (3 µg/m3) is approximately the same as outdoor formaldehyde concentrations in urban areas and almost always is exceeded indoors due to the many sources of this chemical. Consequently, OEHHA has developed an 8-hour indoor REL for formaldehyde based on its acute REL. This value is 33 µg/m3 (27 parts-per-billion), with the limit for individual products set at one-half that value. Acetaldehyde is another chemical with a very low CREL (9 µg/m3) that is found in ambient outdoor air. Similar to formaldehyde, one-half the CREL for this chemical is near its detection limit. Thus, the California Department of Health Services recommends using the full CREL as the pass/fail level for determining the acceptability of building products (See CA/DHS/EHLB/R-174, Addendum 2004-1, October 19, 2004).

Does the FloorScore program involve manufacturers supply chains in the process?

SCS’s evaluation of a manufacturer’s quality control plan includes review of suppliers and supplier variability in the manufacturer’s supply chain. In addition, the manufacturer must maintain documented procedures to ensure that supplier materials conform to specified requirements. Since the FloorScore program focuses on individual VOCs of concern, the identification of chemical sources is strongly encouraged. Manufacturers can use this information to establish specifications for the materials they purchase. Use of input materials with appropriately low concentrations of the target VOCs should give manufacturers confidence that their final products will meet the certification criteria.

What agencies, organizations and businesses have adopted the same or similarly based procedures and criteria?

The California EPA Integrated Waste Management Board has used the same testing procedures and criteria for the evaluation and selection of products for use in a large California State office building project. The main difference in this prior project was the use of the actual building parameters for estimation of VOC concentrations in the project. The Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS) and the Los Angeles Unified School District use the same testing procedures and criteria for listing of products acceptable for use in schools. The FloorScore program builds on the strengths of the school-based program by adding a third party certification system to manage and regulate the procedure. The Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) has established a new certification program for carpets that is a derivative of the California Section 01350 requirements.

What is the history and experience of the certifying body?

SCS is an internationally recognized third-party certifier that follows established and recognized guidelines to ensure its objectivity. Established in 1984, SCS was the nation’s first third-party certifier for pesticide residues in produce. The company is now internationally engaged in certification of multiple facets of the food industry, the environmentally sound management of forests and marine habitats, and environmental achievement in product manufacturing including certification of Environmentally Preferable Products. SCS uses ISO 14024 Principles and Procedures for Type I Environmental Labeling, EPA’s Federal Guidance on Environmentally Preferable Purchasing and ASTM E2129 Data Collection for Sustainability of Building Products to guide the development of its environmental specifications for manufacturing.