Home Depot gets out ahead of toxic flooring controversy
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.
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."
- New Study Finds Toxic Chemicals Widespread in Flooring Sold by Top Retailers – Ecology Center/HealthyStuff.org
- Home Depot phasing out toxic vinyl flooring – CBS MoneyWatch
- Home Depot Says It Will Phase Out Chemical Used in Vinyl Flooring – The New York Times (tiered sub.)
- Phthalates – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Lumber Liquidators deals with its 15 minutes of infamy – RetailWire
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?