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Safer solutions

A new approach for protecting individuals and communities from the harmful effects of toxic pollution and plastics is urgently needed. In order to address environmental justice concerns, the climate crisis, and plastics pollution, governments and companies should adopt comprehensive safer chemicals policies to reduce and eliminate the production, use, and disposal of toxic chemicals like vinyl chloride and plastics like PVC and advance the use of safer chemicals and materials. The elements needed to achieve healthier, sustainable products and materials include:

  • Full transparency and disclosure: disclose the presence, quantity, and hazards of chemicals and plastics produced and used throughout global supply chains.
  • A phase-out of the use and production of the most dangerous chemicals and plastics: chemicals and plastics made from chemicals that are persistent bioaccumulative toxic (PBT) or that can cause cancer and other serious health impacts must be phased out.
  • Investments in the safest chemicals and materials: ensure substitutes to the most hazardous chemicals and plastics are safer and fill data gaps on chemical hazards, using tools to assess chemical and material hazards such as GreenScreen™ and ChemFORWARD.
  • Corporate accountability and environmental justice: hold polluters accountable for cleaning up contamination, restoring community health, and providing safe and clean jobs.

Recommendations for The Home Depot

We applaud The Home Depot’s sustainability commitments over the last 10 years to restrict toxic chemicals in its supply chain, from phasing out phthalates in flooring to banning methylene chloride and NMP in paint removal products to reducing polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic in packaging.57, 74 These efforts have demonstrated The Home Depot’s leadership in addressing toxic chemicals in building materials. The Home Depot has an opportunity to show leadership once again.

Safer alternatives to PVC are readily available, from linoleum flooring to fiber-cement siding to recycled copper piping.75 Healthy Building Network’s product guidance is a great place to start to learn about safer product alternatives. Given The Home Depot’s market stature, it is well-positioned to transform the building industry away from PVC and towards healthier materials that are safer for its customers and environment. We urge The Home Depot to take the following steps:

  1. PVC phase-out commitment: Once short and medium-term solutions are identified, announce and implement a clear timeline to phase out PVC in building materials and to complete the elimination of PVC in both private-label and brand-name packaging.
  2. Increase and feature shelf space for safer alternatives: In the interim, increase and promote the availability of safer alternatives to PVC in your stores, especially those identified as safer by Healthy Building Network’s product guidance.
  3. Impact investment: Invest financial resources to identify, develop, evaluate, and scale other safer alternatives to PVC building materials and packaging.
  4. Educate your customers about safer alternatives: Develop and launch a program to educate your customers, especially professional contractors, about the environmental health hazards of PVC and the benefits of alternatives.
  5. Lobby in support of governmental policies to ban PVC plastic and support the scaling of the production of safer, effective solutions at the state and national levels.

Recommendations for governments

 Action is needed at all levels of government to phase out vinyl chloride and PVC plastic packaging, building materials, and other products. Governments should also use their purchasing power to avoid PVC products and choose safer options. We urge the following actions:

  1. EPA should ban vinyl chloride under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). EPA recently took the first step in prioritizing vinyl chloride under TSCA for risk evaluation. The agency should expeditiously evaluate all hazards posed by vinyl chloride to communities, workers, and consumers and ban the production of vinyl chloride and use in PVC.
  2. States should ban vinyl chloride and PVC and invest in scaling safer solutions. States have been leading the way on chemical policies for more than a decade. Numerous states will be proposing bans on PVC packaging in 2024. The state of Washington is proposing to address all chlorinated substances under its landmark Safer Products for Washington law, which should include vinyl chloride and PVC. States should also invest in research and filling data gaps to identify and scale safer solutions.
  3. Local, state, and federal governments should avoid purchasing PVC. The largest uses of PVC are building materials such as pipes, flooring, and wall coverings. Safer alternatives are available, and governments should be purchasing these safer solutions.
  4. The Biden administration should support a strong global plastics treaty. A global treaty that addresses the serious public health and environmental threats from chemical and plastic production is urgent. The administration should support reducing plastics production and immediately phasing out the most hazardous plastics and chemical additives.