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Momentum Grows to Eliminate Toxic Chemicals in Consumer Products

Lumber Liquidators is the first major home-improvement retailer to require that flooring it sells be free of contaminated plastics. Credit: Dwight Burdette/Wikimedia Commons
Lumber Liquidators is the first major home-improvement retailer to require that flooring it sells be free of contaminated plastics. Credit: Dwight Burdette/Wikimedia Commons
November 25, 2015

RALEIGH, N.C. - It's a big week for big-box stores and large retailers, as North Carolinians gear up for Black Friday shopping. Health advocates say news that a major retailer is committing to sell vinyl flooring made without toxic substances is an early holiday gift to consumers.

Lumber Liquidators, which has 12 locations across the state, is adopting new standards that will require suppliers to end all use of contaminated plastics and limit lead in flooring. Mike Schade, director of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, said he hopes it will push other home-improvement stores to get on board.

"Lumber Liquidators has stepped up and become the first major retailer in the state of North Carolina and the country to adopt the policy banning the use of contaminated, vinyl scrap plastic," he said, "which we think is an encouraging and positive step."

Vinyl flooring using contaminated products can be sourced from electronics waste that could include toxic heavy metals such as lead and cadmium. Last year, a report from the Ecology Center tested flooring from national retailers and found that at least 69 percent of the floors' inner layers had elevated concentrations.

This latest development is part of the Mind the Store campaign, coordinated by Schade's organization. So far, the campaign has succeeded in getting Macy's to stop selling furniture with toxic flame-retardant chemicals. In addition, the group worked with Target to update standards that encourage suppliers to reduce toxic chemicals in their products. Schade said it's important that the awareness grows to protect the health of consumers.

"We think that big retailers need to be minding the store," he said. "There's a big problem out there and scientists are sounding the alarm on the link between exposure to chemicals and chronic health problems on the rise, like cancer."

The Mind the Store campaign began in 2009 amid evidence of the negative impacts of unregulated chemicals, which some research indicates are responsible for incidences of cancer and reproductive disorders in humans.

More information is online at saferchemicals.org. The Ecology Center report is at ecocenter.org.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC