Vinyl flooring is a common target for environmentalists because of claims of lead and phthalates mixed in with polyvinyl chloride (PVC), the material the flooring is mostly made of. And when vinyl flooring is made using reprocessed plastic sourced from substantially different products, it can contain cadmium, brominated flame retardants, and other toxic chemicals as well. This week Lumber Liquidators became the first major flooring retailer to announce that it will end the use of reprocessed plastic over the next year and also limit lead content in the vinyl flooring it sells.

Lumber Liquidators’ announcement is part of the Mind the Store Campaign, a project of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, and is one of several commitments made as part of the program. Earlier this year, Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Menards announced they would stop selling vinyl flooring containing phthalates by the end of this year. Phthalates, used to make plastic more pliant, are known endocrine disrupters, and the Environmental Protection Agency classifies at least two as possible or probable carcinogens.

Manufacturers purchase plastic from a number of sources, but according to a study by the Healthy Building Network, much is processed overseas, where there are fewer controls and protections. So the plastic that ends up exported, referred to as reprocessed, is plastic that is sorted manually from cable and wire insulation, pipes, roofing membranes, and other products.

Lumber Liquidators this time finds itself on the right side of an issue. In early March, the CBS news program 60 Minutes reported that the retailer was selling laminate flooring with formaldehyde emissions several times higher than California’s standards for flooring sold in that state. The company’s CEO resigned in May, and the company suspended sales of all laminate flooring sourced from China, pending its investigation.

What You Can Do

In a recent test Consumer Reports conducted on phthalates in vinyl floors from multiple manufacturers, we found only very low levels in the air and on wipes we ran across the 17 vinyl samples and one sample of wood flooring we tested. Still, we recommend caution since you can’t be absolutely sure—without contacting the manufacturer—of all that’s in your floor. Parents of toddlers should wet-mop the floor often and wash children’s hands after the little ones have been crawling on a vinyl floor.

For more on flooring, see our flooring buying guide and the results of our tests of six types of flooring.