Home Depot gets out ahead of toxic flooring controversy

Discussion
Apr 24, 2015

A new report released this week has praised Home Depot for being "far ahead" of its home improvement store rivals when it comes to requiring flooring suppliers to stop using phthalates in the manufacture of vinyl flooring. While the U.S. government has not concluded that low level exposure to phthalates is harmful to humans, it has called for more research following tests that showed the chemicals "affected the reproductive system of laboratory animals."

According to research conducted by the Ecology Center, 38 out of 65 vinyl floor samples from major home improvement retailers contained phthalates, including several that have been banned from children’s products since 2009. The same study also researched retailers’ policies on the use of phthalates in vinyl flooring and discovered Home Depot is looking to phase out use of the chemicals by the end of this year. The chain had already reached 85 percent of its goal by the end of the first quarter.

"Home Depot’s new policy sends a strong signal to the marketplace that retailers want healthier building materials free of harmful chemicals like phthalates," Andy Igrejas, director of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, said in a press release to announce the research findings.

Two chains, Ace Hardware and Lumber Liquidators, were the only two found to have phthalates in all the flooring samples tested. Both companies addressed the issue in a report by CBS MoneyWatch.





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Ace Hardware said that 100 percent of the vinyl flooring sold from the co-operative’s distribution centers was free of ortho-phthalates. As a co-op, however, individual members are also free to purchase products from other sources.

Lumber Liquidators, which dealt with the negative press earlier this year after "60 Minutes" discovered Chinese-made laminate flooring sold by the retailer contained levels of potentially carcinogenic formaldehyde, said it too was dealing with the phthalates issue.

"Lumber Liquidators is mitigating the level of phthalates in our virgin vinyl flooring to meet existing CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) guidelines for items like child care items and toys," the company said in a statement. "Since the summer of 2014, we began adjusting our product standards and are actively transitioning to work with suppliers who support this goal. This is consistent with Home Depot’s efforts and with our comprehensive commitment to product quality and safety. To be clear, all our products — vinyl or otherwise — are safe for consumers."

How will the publicity around Home Depot’s phasing out phthalates in the vinyl flooring it sells affect the chain’s reputation with consumers? Are ingredients becoming more important in categories beyond those such as food where it has been focus for many years?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"It won’t be huge but it will help, as it would at any time you do anything with the customer in mind."
"I’m always puzzled by the strategy of "phasing out" toxic or harmful products and chemicals in products. I remember when airlines went totally non-smoking but the new policy wasn’t going to be effective until about a year later, as I recall."

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7 Comments on "Home Depot gets out ahead of toxic flooring controversy"


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Max Goldberg
Guest
7 years 26 days ago

Phthalates are dangerous. Home Depot is getting ahead of its competitors by phasing them out as quickly as possible. It’s good for consumers and good for Home Depot. As the article states, other chains are also ridding their shelves of these potentially harmful products.

Consumers want to know that products they eat and come into contact with are safe. It’s incumbent upon retailers to insure this happens or face potentially severe consequences.

Warren Thayer
Guest
7 years 26 days ago

It won’t be huge but it will help, as it would at any time you do anything with the customer in mind. Cumulatively these are things that build your brand. I have seen no data but would expect that consumer health concerns are spreading beyond food. Being out front on that could be an excellent differentiator.

Ian Percy
Guest
7 years 26 days ago

I’m always puzzled by the strategy of “phasing out” toxic or harmful products and chemicals in products. I remember when airlines went totally non-smoking but the new policy wasn’t going to be effective until about a year later, as I recall. They too were going to “phase out” smoking. Is there really a reason why such a thing couldn’t be implemented at least that day if not that minute? Did we think smokers would gradually prepare for no-smoking day?

So Home Depot and others continue to sell chemically-laced floor products that off-gas this poison into our bodies and those of our children and seniors during the “phase out” period. Why? They want kudos for that? “Phase out” is simply a euphemism for “Let’s sell this crap as fast as we can.” Blue Bell Ice Cream didn’t seem to “phase out” its products when some were found contaminated with listeria. Contaminated or not, all the shelves were emptied. Now that’s a decision worthy of note.

Tony Orlando
Guest
7 years 26 days ago

I’ll be brief. Quit buying junk from China. That is all.

J. Kent Smith
Guest
7 years 26 days ago

It’s a positive move both for Home Depot and the industry. Indeed responsible sourcing can be a brand booster by building the trust of consumers, and therefore a good defense against competitive undercutting. It’s unfortunate this issue ever happened to begin with, but it’s encouraging to see the industry move on it ahead of any legislation. Pat orange on the back for that. Come to think of it…I have to buy some flooring….

Doug Fleener
Guest
7 years 26 days ago

I’m thinking the Lumber Liquidator CEO is not having the best year of his life.

Also 100% agree with Ian. No need to phase it out. Pull it off the shelf. Make a statement about what’s important to your company: profits or your customer’s health.

Cathy Hotka
Guest
7 years 26 days ago

I’m shocked there’s a market for vinyl flooring at all in 2015. Time for natural products, people. And Tony Orlando is correct. 🙂

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Braintrust
"It won’t be huge but it will help, as it would at any time you do anything with the customer in mind."
"I’m always puzzled by the strategy of "phasing out" toxic or harmful products and chemicals in products. I remember when airlines went totally non-smoking but the new policy wasn’t going to be effective until about a year later, as I recall."

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