Photo Credit: Versa


Wallcoverings are used globally to peak interest in a room. They provide graphic interest and the ability to update and reinvent spaces with ease. However, even though they are widely used, wallcoverings contain a variety of factors that pose serious health hazards.


Vinyl wallpapers/wallcoverings contain phthalate plasticizers to soften the material for easier installation. Phthalates are linked to reproductive, developmental, and respiratory health problems at prolonged exposure.  Some phthalates are known carcinogens and due to their chemical structure, they’re likely to migrate off products into dust and onto occupants, especially children who are more likely to touch walls.3 PVC or vinyl wallcoverings have also been found to have dangerously high levels of toxic metals which are used to stabilize the material.2


In order to address the flammability code requirements of wallcoverings, manufacturers add halogenated flame retardants which have been linked to thyroid disruption, reproductive and neurodevelopmental problems, immune suppression, and cancer.3 We highly recommend watching this documentary to learn about the complexities of using flame retardants in building materials.


The adhesives used for wallcoverings present additional concerns because they contain VOCs and biocides. Classified as polybutylene terephthalates (PBTs), biocides will never break down in the environment and are known to obstruct endocrine functioning.3


✓ Look for these certifications:

  • Cradle to Cradle 
  • USGBC-LEED compliance
  • Greenguard Gold 
  • NSF 342 standard

✓ Search for products with:

  • Peel-and-stick application
  • Water based adhesive compatibility
  • Low or no VOCs

✗ Watch out for products with:

  • Halogenated flame retardants
  • Antimicrobial compounds
  • Stain-resistant PFAS 
  • PVC