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Healthy Children Project
by Maureen Swanson, HCP Director

Young children spend countless happy hours on kitchen floors, rolling a ball, pushing a toy car, or better yet, pulling open cupboards to find cans to stack and pots to bang together. Then there’s all the time in and out of the highchair or booster seat, getting down from the table to explore everything that has fallen under it.

What grandparents and parents don’t see when they watch a toddler play on the kitchen floor is all the chemicals that travel from the dust and crumbs onto their hands, and often, into their little mouths.

Chemicals called phthalates are used as plasticizers in vinyl flooring. A new study released this week shows that 58% of vinyl flooring tiles tested across the country contain elevated levels of these toxic chemicals. Mounting scientific evidence links phthalates to problems with learning and development, to male reproductive health concerns, liver toxicity and asthma in children.

In 2008 the United States banned a number of these toxic chemicals from children’s products. But they’re just as harmful when they’re in the flooring. Phthalates migrate into the air and dust, and then into children’s bodies. According to the American Chemical Society, large areas of vinyl flooring at many daycares and schools also expose children to phthalates and put them at risk.

But LDA is happy to share some great news for children’s health. In April, The Home Depot announced they are eliminating phthalates from all virgin vinyl flooring they sell by the end of 2015. As of their first quarter of 2015, they are already more than 85% of the way to that goal.

The Home Depot has been working with the national “Mind the Store” campaign since last spring to develop this policy. LDA – at the national level and in the states – is playing an active role in this campaign because we recognize that toxic chemicals represent an enormous opportunity for preventing harm. We can’t do much about our genes, at least not yet, but we can urge manufacturers and retailers to stop using chemicals that are shown to interfere with healthy brain development.

The Home Depot’s decision on phthalates is especially important because as the largest home improvement retailer in the country, they have the power to help drive these chemicals out of flooring across the market.

In fact, that is exactly what happened next. Using social media posts and op-ed articles, LDA leaders joined “Mind the Store” colleagues to congratulate Home Depot and call on other home improvement retailers to follow suit. One week later, Lowe’s announced that they too would eliminate the use of phthalates in vinyl flooring by the end of 2015.

LDA applauds these major retailers for their outstanding leadership in setting standards for healthier flooring materials. LDA is asking companies like Ace Hardware and Lumber Liquidators to now do the same.

As our children learn and play and grow, we shouldn’t have to worry that the floors beneath their feet are leaching toxic chemicals. Thanks to the ongoing efforts of LDA members, in coordination with the “Mind the Store” campaign, our homes and schools are becoming safer, healthier places for developing minds and bodies.

 

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