Bill Walsh | April 22, 2015
Home Depot, the world’s largest purchaser of building products, announced today that by the end of this year it will eliminate phthalate plasticizers from the vinyl flooring it sells. Phthalates are endocrine disrupting chemicals that have been banned in children’s products since 2008 but are still widely used in a wide range of vinyl products to make them flexible.
The announcement came after lengthy negotiations led by the Mind The Store Campaign, a grassroots effort supported by the Healthy Building Network’s cutting-edge research on building products. Mind The Store is challenging the country’s largest retailers to restrict 100 hazardous chemicals in the products they sell. Also today, the Mind The Store campaign released a report identifying phthalates and other chemical hazards detected in vinyl flooring products.
The Healthy Building Network (HBN) first addressed the issue of phthalate substitution in polyvinyl chloride (PVC or “vinyl”) flooring in our 2014 report, Phthalate-free Plasticizers in PVC. The HBN analysis was intended to help purchasers evaluate the claims of phthalate-free product lines in order to make informed choices about a wide array of materials including flooring, wall guards and coverings, wire and cabling, upholstery and membrane roofing. And it worked: the report helped to convince Home Depot that change was possible in short order. Now that Home Depot has acted, the whole industry will surely follow.
And what a relief it will be for people who live, work and play on vinyl floors. PVC sheet floors can contain over 20% phthalate plasticizers. These semi-volatile organic compounds readily migrate from flooring into dust and are inhaled by building occupants. Researchers are finding that exposures to phthalates occurs in the womb as well as after birth, and can impair the development of lungs and immune systems. This disruption in turn can lead to the development of asthma, as we first reported in 2004, and genital deformities in boys.
For over a decade now, leading green designers, architects and building owners have taken a precautionary approach, avoiding PVC building products in commercial buildings as evidence grew of the many toxic impacts associated with PVC and its additives. As a result, phthalate-free formulations of vinyl floor and wall coverings began appearing in this market a few years ago. Home Depot's leadership marks a tipping point that will bring these products to everyone.
Gina Ciganik, Vice President – Housing Development of Aeon, who directed the most rigorous materials screening process for an affordable housing project, underscored the significance of this announcement: "Aeon and its partners are thrilled to hear this news and are committed to advancing this healthy materials effort. We will seek out partners like Home Depot who can offer products that support healthy communities."
Tell Lowe’s: Eliminate Toxic Phthalates in Flooring
If Home Depot can ban phthalates in flooring, so should Lowe’s! TAKE ACTION and ask Lowe’s CEO Robert Niblock to #MindTheStore and ban phthalates in vinyl flooring. Visit Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families’ Take Action page for more information.
New research by the Healthy Building Network, published today in a new report, Post-Consumer Polyvinyl Chloride in Building Products, reveals that legacy toxic hazards are being reintroduced into our homes, schools and offices in recycled vinyl content that is routinely added to floors and other building products. Legacy substances used in PVC products, like lead, cadmium, and phthalates, are turning up in new products through the use of cheap recycled content. Read more in our newsletter and our report.