James Vallette | October 25, 2017
Home Depot, the largest building product retailer in the U.S., has announced a sweeping new Chemical Strategy that considers several building product categories, including carpet, fiberglass insulation, paints, and laminate flooring. (See related Healthy Building News article).
Home Depot’s Chemical Strategy promises to accelerate important detoxification trends in certain building product categories. Avoiding hazards in products is often a function-by-function process. In this blog we provide a detailed analysis of the impacts the strategy will have on making building products healthier. We also identify areas where chemical hazards remain and more action is needed.
Home Depot has eliminated a family of functional additives -- alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEOs), including nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs) -- from most interior and exterior latex water-based paints sold in its U.S. and Canadian stores. It will phase the rest out by the end of 2019.
APEOs are surfactants that help keep substances mixed in paints. But NPEs contain and break down into chemicals called nonylphenols, which are highly persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic. These chemicals, when released to the environment, contaminate the food chain. NPEs are also suspected endocrine disruptors, which tend to affect children the most.
Nonylphenol ethoxylates are mostly phased-out in Europe and Japan, but still common in the U.S., even though the EPA has identified over 200 “safer surfactants” to replace them. Home Depot is the first large U.S. paint seller to announce a categorical phaseout of APE/NPEs, although Benjamin Moore, Imperial Paints, and Sherwin-Williams also have product lines free of them.
Home Depot’s strategy for interior and exterior latex water-based wall paints sold in the U.S. and Canada now excludes these substances:
In addition to paints, Home Depot's strategy eliminates certain toxic chemicals in carpet, fiberglass insulation, and laminate flooring.
The Chemical Strategy says all indoor “wall to wall carpet sold through The Home Depot U.S. and Canada” is now free of:
The bans on legacy chemicals could necessitate testing for these substances in any products containing recycled carpet.
More action needed: The new Home Depot carpet policy does not yet address some significant concerns that we have raised, including halogenated flame retardants in carpet pad and NPEs in carpet adhesives. For further info, see our latest report, Eliminating Toxics in Carpet: Lessons for the Future of Recycling.
The retailer says all fiberglass insulation products sold in its U.S. and Canadian stores do not include:
More action needed: The current chemical strategy only restricts chemicals in fiberglass insulation. Many other types of insulation contain the same and additional chemicals and chemical classes of concern. Mineral wool insulation still typically contains formaldehyde-based binders. Some formaldehyde-free mineral wool batts are now available and should be preferred. Rigid foam insulation products and spray foam insulation and sealants contain halogenated flame retardants. Spray foam insulation and sealant products react on-site when applied and expose the applicators and others in the building to hazardous isocyanates. Do-it-yourselfers, who may not always be aware of the proper safety equipment, are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of isocyanates.
According to Home Depot, “Laminate flooring at The Home Depot is verified by either GREENGUARD® Gold or FloorScore® certification to contain 0.0073 ppm or less of formaldehyde, which is a stricter standard than CARB 2 of 0.05 ppm.”
HBN Policy Director Tom Lent, who has been tracking the formaldehyde issue for decades, says Home Depot’s standard “is very low - currently the best in class for restrictions on formaldehyde emissions. Given the ability of formaldehyde emissions to increase with time, particularly when controlled by scavengers, HBN still encourages complete elimination of the use of formaldehyde based binders.”
All in all, the Home Depot 2017 policy represents important steps forward on the still long path to inherently safer chemistry on the shelves of home improvement retailers.
Home Depot's Chemical Strategy is contained in the company's 2017 Sustainability Report (see pages 67-69), available here.
HBN has also written a general overview about this topic here.