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Whether you are shopping for holiday gifts, birthday gifts, or just because, it’s so critical to choose safe, healthy products for our family and others. It can certainly feel overwhelming when we start to think about where a product comes from, what is used to make it, the waste it produces, and how safe it is for both us and the environment. When we walk into a trusted store, we expect the products on the shelves to be safe, but sadly toxic chemicals are hiding in everyday products all around us, from cleaning products and cosmetics to baby toys and electronics.
Fortunately, Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, a nationwide coalition of organizations and businesses working to safeguard American families from toxic chemicals, publishes an annual retailer report card called Who’s Minding the Store? that grades the chemical policies and practices of major retailers.
About The Report Card
For the fourth year in a row, Safer Chemical, Healthy Families evaluated and graded the chemical policies and practices of 43 retail chains with more than 190,000 stores in the U.S. and Canada. These companies are considered to be the top retailers by sales or those who commanded the largest market share in one of 12 major retail sectors. The draft report card findings were shared with the retailers ahead of time to provide them with an opportunity to review the conclusions, disclose additional information, and make new public commitments toward safer chemicals.
The report card reveals that many of North America’s largest retail companies are embracing chemical safety policies to help protect consumers from toxic chemicals in products. In the largest-ever analysis of its kind, 63 percent of evaluated companies improved over the past year alone. The study also found dramatic improvement in retailer chemical action between 2016 to 2019, with the average grade moving from D+ to B- (for the eleven retailers evaluated since 2016).
For example, several major retailers have committed to end the sale of paint stripping products containing the deadly chemicals methylene chloride and N-Methylpyrrolidone (NMP). Also, some retailers are working to replace entire classes of toxic chemicals with safer alternatives. For example, several are phasing out phthalates, parabens, formaldehyde-donors, and nonylphenol ethoxylates as chemical classes. For the first time ever, major retail grocers and restaurants are focused on eliminating classes of toxic chemicals, such as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), ortho-phthalates and bisphenols from food packaging materials, which have been found to be a source of exposure to harmful contaminants. These actions respond to growing consumer concern about food safety and toxic chemicals.
However, nearly half of the companies—including every restaurant chain evaluated—have failed to take any public measures to help eliminate toxic chemicals from the products they carry.
You can learn more about how your favorite retailers scored by reading the report card.
What Still Needs To Be Done
Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families urges all retailers to adopt comprehensive safer chemicals policies, fully disclose the ingredients of their products and packaging, and substitute hazardous chemicals with safer solutions. Mike Schade, Mind the Store Campaign Director and report co-author said, “Companies can prevent harm and protect public health by taking common sense steps to phase out toxic chemicals in everyday products. Retailers have an important role to play–they have both the power and the moral responsibility to eliminate and safely replace toxic chemicals to ‘mind the store.’ They should stop letting chemical corporations put public health at risk.”
How You Can Help
Now more than ever, we need companies to step up and safeguard our health. A growing body of science has linked exposure to toxic chemicals to health problems and diseases such as cancer, learning and developmental disabilities, and reproductive disorders. Although these chemicals come from multiple sources, many are present in the products we buy. It’s time retailers put the interests of our families’ health above the special interests of chemical corporations. Big retailers can innovate to reduce or eliminate toxic chemicals from the products they carry and safeguard our health. Here’s what you can do:
- Join and support the Mind the Store campaign and push retailers to clean up their act.
- Take action now. With a couple of clicks, you can send a message to the CEOs of the 14 retailers that earned Fs in the report card.
- Change your shopping habits. Use the report card as your guide before you head out to the store to choose safe and eco friendly gifts for your family and others.
- Spread the word. Share this post with your friends and family to make sure they stay safe, and encourage them to speak out to the retailers as well.
What other tools do you use to choose safe and eco friendly gifts?