Could the same harmful chemicals phased out of children’s toys more than five years ago still be lurking in the floor where your baby crawls? A recent study says more than half of vinyl flooring tested from some major retailers contained phthalates.
***Update: now both Lowe’s and Menards have also announced they will also be phasing out phthalates from the vinyl flooring they sell! This is a major consumer victory, in response to consumer advocacy from Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families watchdogs like YOU! Caution: you would still need to check on a case by case basis about any flooring you purchase this year.
In a related development, the world’s largest home improvement retailer, Home Depot, has committed to phasing out ortho-phthalates in all virgin vinyl flooring sold at its stores by the end of 2015. Home Depot has been leading the way with a comprehensive plan requiring its suppliers to switch to safer alternatives.
Phthalates are chemicals that were banned in some children’s products back in 2009 because of their links to birth defects, asthma, learning disabilities, cancer, liver toxicity and reproductive problems. These chemicals are used to make plastics soft. Researchers have found that this plasticizer can migrate out of vinyl flooring into the air and become part of the dust we breathe. Of course our babies are the most vulnerable to inhaling and ingesting this. Crawling on floors and hand-to-mouth actions increase children’s exposure to household dust.
Researchers at the Ecology Center tested 65 flooring tiles from various stores, finding 58% of the samples tested positive for phthalates. These may soon be banned in the European Union, while US policy lags far behind modern science on environmental health. The samples were from these stores:
You can see complete details of the Ecology Center study at this link to HealthyStuff.org.
The watchdog Mind the Store campaign by the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition works in conjunction with the Ecology Center, also surveying retailers for their commitment to phasing out toxic chemicals in consumer products. Mind the Store reports that Home Depot not only developed a comprehensive policy on phthalates, but has made great progress, already phasing out 85% of new vinyl flooring with this chemical by the first quarter of the year.
“With this commitment, The Home Depot demonstrates outstanding environmental health leadership,” said Mike Belliveau, executive director of Environmental Health Strategy Center and Senior Advisor to Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families. “This is a major next step in the global effort to phase out all phthalates in commerce in favor of safer substitutes.” Belliveau led the team that presented Home Depot with other plasticizer options.
“We congratulate The Home Depot on this landmark initiative,” remarked SCHF director Andy Igrejas. “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. We call on Lowe’s and other major home improvement retailers to join Home Depot in phasing out phthalates in flooring.”
You can help urge Lowe’s to also phase out phthalates from its flooring, by joining with other concerned parents, medical professionals, scientists and more. You can print the HealthyStuff results and share it with your local store manager the next time you shop, also asking item by item whether a particular brand is manufactured without toxic phthalates (pronounced tha-lates) before you buy. *See update above.
Mind the Store reminds us that in case you can’t find vinyl flooring free of phthalates, safer alternatives could be ceramic tile or even natural rubber or bio-based linoleum.
“Our study shows that hazardous plasticizers called phthalates are still too commonplace in vinyl tile flooring,” said Jeff Gearhart, researcher director for Healthy Stuff.org. “We also identified the beginnings of a market shift, with one-third of the products tested already using less hazardous plasticizers.”