Consumer demand for healthier building products is shaking up the supply chains of home improvement retailers. On the heels of a scathing “60 Minutes” report that alleged some Chinese-made wood flooring from Lumber Liquidators may contain unsafe levels of formaldehyde, Home Depot is requiring its suppliers to phase out the use of phthalates in vinyl flooring sold in its stores by the end of 2015.
Phthalates, plasticizers that are used to make vinyl flooring flexible, may be linked to reproductive and developmental problems, particularly in male babies, according to a recent study from HealthStuff.org. Findings from tests conducted by the nonprofit group found phthalates in 58% of the flooring samples tested from Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Lumber Liquidators.
Given the market’s reaction to the Lumber Liquidators news — the stock price plunged more than 50% — and ensuing lawsuits, retailers are taking safety concerns very seriously. Lowe’s is facing scrutiny for selling potentially harmful flooring and is under pressure to follow Home Depot’s lead and ban phthalates from its shelves. “We call on Lowe’s and other major retailers to join Home Depot in phasing out phthalates in flooring,” Andy Igrejas, director of advocacy group Safe Chemicals, Healthy Families, said in a statement. Lowe’s says it’s reviewing the latest research on phthalates and working with suppliers to consider alternative materials. Lowe’s, along with some other retailers, also plans to phase out products that contain certain chemicals that are shown to be harmful to bees.
A ban on phthalates would affect about 15% of the flooring on Home Depot’s shelves, according to the company, which is challenging suppliers to come up with new and healthier consumer options.
Industry Impact: Pressure from consumers and environmental groups is leading home improvement retailers to demand safer products from suppliers.
Alexandra Biesada shops everyday, whether she wants to or not, and pines for the days when it was strictly a recreational activity. She has covered the retail beat for Hoover’s since 2001. Follow her on Twitter.