Grout is everywhere. You can find it indoors and out, in and around swimming pools, and anywhere in a building where you see tile work or mosaics. Grout comes in many varieties, and it's generally considered to be safe once it has been applied and dries. However, what about being exposed to grout during a tile project? Is it safe for installers and those in the immediate area? Does grout offgas, and – if so – are the fumes toxic?
Let's start by discussing Portland cement grout. Portland cement is a generic term that refers to building materials (including grout) that are known for their strong adhesive properties when mixed with water. According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), anyone who works with Portland cement is at risk for potential skin problems – ranging in severity from mild irritation to, in some cases, severe long term damage. This is because wet Portland cement is caustic, abrasive and absorbs moisture. Portland cement also contains small amounts of hexavalent chromium [Cr(VI)], a toxin that is harmful to the skin.
While Portland cement is not typically harmful in its dry form, it can present problems when it's wet. Cement grouts such as Portland cement are easily inhaled, and the fine silica particles found in the grout can cause breathing issues. In fact, even a small amount of silica dust presents a health hazard. For this reason, OSHA has set forth specific guidelines regarding silica exposure. These guidelines outline the potential risks – including short- and long-term breathing issues and irritation of nasal passages – and provide recommendations for avoiding them. Even though symptoms may not be immediately apparent, long term exposure to silica dust can be severe, making those who regularly work with grout and other cement-based products especially at risk.
Although inhaling epoxy resins isn't generally dangerous, inhalation of some curing agents – particularly in close quarters – can cause temporary and minor respiratory irritation in some people. While cured epoxy poses minimal risks, liquid- and partially-cured epoxies do present health threats, requiring preventative measures during tile installation such as keeping an area well ventilated and wearing protective gear. Keep in mind that sanding cured epoxy produces dust, which can be harmful if inhaled and certain Epoxies require special mixing of the resins, then adding silica materials as a third part, this exposes applicators to the same risks as cement based grouts. In addition, inhalation of epoxy fumes can irritate and inflame the nose, throat and lungs. And, repeated exposure can activate asthma. In addition, when dust from partially-cured epoxy is inhaled, those particles can become trapped in the mucus lining of the respiratory system, leading to severe health problems. According to OSHA, it's important to always avoid inhaling silica dust, and protective gear is always recommended.
The good news is, not all grouts are created equal. One grout type stands far above the rest. Litokol epoxy grout products are safe and non-toxic to installers, consumers and the environment. Starlike Grout is the safest grout in the industry, offering the highest possible performance while being trusted and respected by industry professionals worldwide. The Tile Doctor is the sole U.S. distributor of Litokol's Starlike® Grout products. Both Litokol and the Tile Doctor are committed to the health and safety of not only the ecosystem, but all those who come into contact with their products, whether that is the manufacturer, installer or the homeowner.
Most types of grout, including cement grout and other epoxy grout products, are labeled as hazardous and corrosive, and are accompanied by warnings to avoid skin and eye contact as well as instructions for specialized disposal methods. Porous by nature, cement grouts often contain an anti-microbial additive to prevent the growth of mold and mildew. According to experts and environmental groups, these anti-microbial additives can be toxic to the water supply. In general, tile regularly comes into contact with water that is disposed of in drains, placing entire water supplies at risk for contamination in cases where toxic products are used.
Starlike epoxy grout products are safer than other epoxy grouts because they do not contain harmful chemicals or any of the antimicrobial products found in many of those grouts, have very low VOC (volatile organic compound) emissions and have been proven to have no negative impact on installers or the environment.
In addition to being safe and environmentally-friendly, Starlike products are stain- and crack-resistant, work on almost any surface and are durable enough to withstand even the most extreme conditions.
Starlike grout is offered in a broad range of styles and aesthetics, including more than 159 colors and finishes – providing virtually unlimited design options. Colors include classic and traditional hues for a more subtle effect, along with glamour and glittering styles, metallic colors for a more modern approach, "Jewelry-Like" Crystal Glass Grout Jewels®, and translucent Starlike Crystal Glass Grout, which consists of small, hollow glass beads that bend and reflect light, creating a dazzling display.
To learn more about Starlike Grout and how safe it is for installers, consumers, pets and the environment, call us anytime toll free at 1-877-TileDoc (845-3362)
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