(Photo Credit: Grant Laird Jr., Flickr)

(Photo Credit: Grant Laird Jr., Flickr)

The nation’s third largest home improvement retail chain, Menards, confirmed to a major news outlet that it was joining Home Depot and Lowes in pledging to stop sales of vinyl flooring containing toxic phthalates by the end of the year. The chemicals are harmful to health and banned from many children’s products. The news follows an online petition campaign to Menards started by “Mind the Store,” a project of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families.

A coalition of Wisconsin environment and health groups was preparing to issue a letter today to Menards, when the retailer disclosed to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that “it would stop selling vinyl flooring containing a toxic chemical — an apparent response to a public-relations campaign to pressure the Eau Claire-based company to join other retailers and end its use of the product. Menards said it planned to stop selling any products containing phthalates (pronounced “tha-layts”) at its home improvement stores by the end of year. “

Lab tests recently conducted by the independent Ecology Center – based in Ann Arbor, Michigan – found some flooring sold by Menards tested positive for phthalates. The full test results are available at HealthyStuff.org.

“We welcome and thank Menards for their commitment to transition away from unnecessary toxic phthalates in flooring. This is great news for their customers across the Midwest,” said Mike Schade, campaign director for Mind the Store. “Phasing out phthalates in flooring is clearly a growing trend amongst the biggest flooring retailers nationwide.  We urge Ace Hardware to follow suit in phasing out these chemicals that are harmful for children’s health.”

Linked to birth defects, learning disabilities, asthma, and other serious health problems in numerous studies, phthalates can migrate out of vinyl flooring into air and dust inside homes. This is especially problematic for children. More vulnerable to chemical exposure, kids also spend more time on the floor and do more hand-to-mouth activities. The federal Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has restricted certain phthalates from toys and other products because of their negative health effects.

“Menards announcement is great news and I’m sure the groups and individuals in Wisconsin who requested action from them hope they will continue to review the safety of the products they offer. Phthalates and other chemicals known to cause health concerns will continue to hide in merchandise unless regular reviews take place. By continuing to review their products, Menards can ensure the goods they offer will be the safest options possible,” said Eric Uram, principal at Headwater Consulting in Madison.

The Mind the Store Campaign is coordinated by Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, which is challenging major US retailers to adopt policies to identify, restrict, and safely substitute the Hazardous 100+ chemicals in common consumer products.