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World's Largest DIY Retailer to Phase Out Phthalates in Vinyl Flooring by Year's End

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The world's largest home improvement retailer today confirmed it would be doing its part for the planet and our health by phasing out a class of toxic chemicals, phthalates, from vinyl flooring sold by the chain. The phaseout will be complete by the end of the year. Sadly, other retailers we talked to were not so committed.

A new study released today by the Ecology Center found that most vinyl flooring they tested contained toxic phthalates.

What are phthalates? 

Phthalate chemicals are plasticizers, and considered hazardous. The Consumer Product Safety Commission banned them from toys in 2009, but they continue to be used in other products. Flooring is especially a problem because children can play on the floor for hours at a time.

A growing body of credible scientific evidence has linked exposure to phthalates with serious threats to human health including asthma, as well as, harm to male reproductive organs, brain development, and the immune system. Phthalates can migrate out of flooring materials and get into the air and dust inside homes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 90 percent of Americans have measurable levels of phthalates in their bodies.

Phthalates common in vinyl flooring

A new study released today by our partners at the Ecology Center found that most vinyl flooring they tested contained toxic phthalates. The flooring samples tested were purchased from major home improvement retailers including Lowe’s and Lumber Liquidators. Researchers found that, of 65 vinyl flooring tiles tested, 38 of them or 58 percent, contained phthalates.

The study also surveyed major retailers to assess whether they have adopted policies to eliminate phthalates in flooring. The survey found that Home Depot is far ahead of its competitors by requiring its suppliers to eliminate ortho-phthalates in all virgin vinyl flooring by the end of 2015.

The Home Depot announcement is a big deal, and could lead the whole industry to safer flooring. As the world’s largest home improvement retailer, Home Depot’s new policy sends a strong signal to the marketplace that retailers want healthier building materials free of harmful chemicals like phthalates. If we speak out, Lowes, Lumber Liquidators and others will be compelled to follow. That's the power we have as customers in the marketplace.

What to do? 

Our partners at Healthy Stuff recommend the following if you want to avoid exposing you and your family to phthalates in flooring:

  • Avoid vinyl flooring containing phthalates. Use these ratings to find flooring doesn’t contain phthalates.
  • Only purchase flooring that the manufacturer or retailer has indicated is “phthalate-free.” Double-check with the company that it does not contain recycled vinyl, which is often contaminated with phthalates and heavy metals (e.g. lead and cadmium).
  • Many retailers surveyed sell non-vinyl flooring alternatives. Healthier flooring options included bio-based linoleum, natural rubber and ceramic tile.

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