For many of us, our frustration around toxic chemicals is amplified when we go shopping for our families. It's along those aisles that we turn over the products, in the slim chance that the labels will tell us something about the product's safety, only to be disappointed. Or we wade through "green-washed" products that falsely claim they're supposedly "natural" or "non-toxic," with little or no information backing such claims up.
In response to that frustration we at Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families started our Mind the Store campaign, which is asking the nation's top retailers to create an action plan on the worst of the worst hazardous chemicals on the market. Toxic chemicals like flame retardants, phthalates, and BPA, are commonly found in household cleaners, children's products, and even our clothing. These very same chemicals are getting into our bodies and are linked to health problems like cancer, early puberty and birth defects.
Walgreens, the nation's largest drugstore, has taken some small steps to address toxic chemicals, but unfortunately decided not to respond to our campaign after a year of friendly outreach and attempts to sit down with their sustainability team.
We even had an extra boost of grassroots support when actor and producer Jennifer Beals tweeted about the day, activating thousands to take action.
In tandem with the store visits, HealthyStuff.org released new product testing revealing toxic chemicals in Walgreens products, even a pet toy containing elevated levels of the lead. This latest testing is part of multiple years worth of research confirming that toxic chemicals, many with links to serious health problems, are found in the products you and I use every day. These exposures are multiplied when you take into account exposures through our food, air, and drinking water.
In Europe, Walgreens owns 45% of the retailer chain BOOTS, which has a comprehensive chemicals policy. Here in the United States, Walgreens has none. If certain chemicals are banned on their store shelves in Europe, shouldn't they be here as well?
Walgreens unresponsiveness and inaction is rare, thankfully. Within the last year Target and Walmart have announced serious comprehensive policies on chemicals and many more retailers are talking with us about how they can best address toxic chemicals in their supply chain.
Retailers are moving ahead and they are no longer taking small bites at the chemical apple. Responding to consumer concerns and in part, our Mind the Store campaign, they are now taking on large sets of hazardous chemicals in multiple product categories.
This is what's needed if we want to significantly transform the marketplace towards safer, less toxic products. Big systematic change requires big solutions and thankfully some retailers are starting to get it. The day has come where if you are a major retailer and you don't have a comprehensive policy on chemicals, you'll quickly get left behind by a smart, savvy and fired up consumer base.
So after 50 store visits, and continued friendly engagement with Walgreens, do you think they'll finally call us back and agree on a path forward on chemicals?
We hope so; there is no shortage of work to be done, especially by the country's leading drugstore.
You can see a short video from our Walgreens actions here:
Follow Lindsay Dahl on Twitter: www.twitter.com/SaferChemicals