Liz, you're right to be concerned about possible indoor air quality issues from wood flooring finishes. The good news is there are now more decent alternatives to standard construction and interior design materials. You just need to do some homework.
There are three things to consider here:
- First, your concerns regarding the aluminum oxide finish itself.
- The second concern is what will happen when you eventually need to refinish the floor.
- The third concern deals with what's underneath that pretty bamboo surface.
Let's take each one separately. First -- the finish itself.
Aluminum Oxide Finishes
What About Refinishing?
Besides the concern about aluminum absorption, the other factor to consider is refinishing. Sanding down an aluminum oxide finish will release aluminum oxide particles. With the Bellawood finish, given the multiple coatings and the extensive warranty, it's not as likely that refinishing will be necessary. However, this may not be true for all brands of aluminum oxide prefinished bamboo flooring. In fact, if you do a Google search on bamboo flooring with aluminum oxide finishes, you will find reports by some disgruntled homeowners complaining about poor durability, including scratching and even flaking.
From product to product, quality will vary of course, so find out which product was installed in the apartment loft you are considering, then go online to check out how it's holding up for others. However, even If it's holding up well overall, you might still give some consideration to eventual sanding and refinishing down the line.
To prevent inhalation of aluminum oxide, it would be prudent to budget for airtight protection of your HVAC system, airtight isolation of rooms that are not to be refinished during sanding, and special ventilation, called negative pressurization, to keep the dust from migrating into the rest of the house.
After refinishing, I also recommend completing a serious deep-cleaning on all horizontal and vertical surfaces, including ceilings. True deep-cleaning should be performed by a highly experienced, qualified mold remediation company, that follows the SB520 standards, and so has all the right equipment and skills (for more information, go to http://iaqa.org/).
In addition, during application and curing, you will need to include, depending on your geographical location and the time of year, portable ventilation, dehumidification and heat (since you can't use your HVAC system) so the finish goes on and cures out properly. All those extras can be an expensive proposition, but until more is known about inhaling aluminum oxide, I would recommend those precautions.
Bamboo Flooring and Glues
Bamboo flooring is more than the finish and the wood surface you can actually see. These types of floors are most likely laminated, not solid bamboo, and held together by glues. So make sure that the glues are formaldehyde-free if possible. Then expect to ventilate well anyway, for several months, particularly if you are chemically sensitive or have small children in the home.
Even though odor may not necessarily be apparent, formaldehyde-free glues still contain chemicals called isocyanates which, unlike formaldehyde, dissipate much faster and easier. However, isocyanate chemicals are still somewhat toxic, particularly for sensitive individuals, so fresh air exchange for the first 6 months to a year is very important. If the glues are not completely formaldehyde-free, check with the manufacturer to make sure the levels tested low, then ventilate with fresh air for the first 6 months to a year.
For more information:
Read GreenHomeGuide's "Make Floor Refinishing Greener and Safer"for floor refinishing tips.
HealthyBuilding.net has extensive coverage offormaldehyde levels and health.