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Katy Farber's picture


After a long day of teaching, I grabbed my 7 year old, and headed to find the only Walgreens in Vermont. "At the corner of healthy and happy" was actually 45 minutes away. Thankfully, my daughter entertained herself by singing songs from Frozen with great emotion.

Our job, though, was very serious. We needed to deliver a message to Walgreens to take action about the toxic chemicals in the products they sell. My daughter read the card we were delivering in the back seat. She read (with a little help):

"Due to our lax federal laws on toxic chemicals, it's nearly impossible for an everyday consumer like me to find products that do not contain toxic chemicals linked to cancer, learning disabilities, and other serious health problems."

We weren't the only ones delivering this message to Walgreens today. IMG_1999 Concerned parents and health professionals descended on Walgreens stores across the country today saying the company has failed to take action to reduce the sale of products containing toxic chemicals. The event was part of a national “Mind the Store” day of action to raise awareness of toxic chemicals in consumer products. Similar events took place at over 45 Walgreens stores nationwide. Today’s actions were in response to a new study by (a project of the Ecology Center), which found that many Walgreens products contained hazardous chemicals. Parents returned the products containing toxic chemicals, and delivered postcards to the store manager signed by concerned customers. Since April 2013, over 60,000 customers have sent Walgreens letters urging the company to create an action plan on the “Hazardous 100+” toxic chemicals. To date the company has not responded to the Mind the Store campaign’s letters or requests to meet. The Mind the Store Campaign has been encouraging Walgreens to adopt a comprehensive chemicals policy. Scientists at tested 44 products from Walgreens, ranging from household cleaning products, school supplies, pet toys and other everyday consumer products. Many were found to have one or more chemicals, including PVC (vinyl) plastic, phthalates, organotins and heavy metals that have been identified by state and federal authoritative government bodies to be toxic to our health.

"Our new study shows that some products sold at Walgreens contain toxic chemicals like phthalates, flame retardants and vinyl plastic," said Jeff Gearhart, research director for the Ecology Center and "It shouldn’t be a case of ‘buyer beware,’ when shopping for consumer products, retailers have a responsibility to offer safer products. As a result we have joined our partners in the Mind the Store Campaign to call on Walgreens to get products containing toxic chemicals off of their store shelves."

IMG_2005New research into toxic chemicals in Walgreens products:

  • Laboratory testing identified high levels of phthalates in a number of products sold at Walgreens, including a 3-ring binder, vinyl shower curtain, iPod/iPhone charger, and handbag purse.  Of the 13 vinyl products screened for phthalates, all 13 tested positive for regulated phthalates at levels greater than 10,000 ppm.  Examples include:
    • A vinyl shower curtain contained 18.2% of the phthalate DEHP.
    • A vinyl 3-ring binder contained 14.3% of the phthalate DINP.
    • Vinyl cleaning gloves contained 37.5% of the phthalate DINP.
    • A blue handbag purse contained 4.5% of the phthalate DEHP.
    • An iPod/iPhone/iPad charger contained 32.7% of the phthalate DINP.
    • About 30% (13 of 44) of the products tested contained high chlorine levels, suggesting they may be made of the toxic plastic, polyvinyl chloride (PVC or vinyl).
    • A pet tennis ball contained elevated levels of lead.
    • About 27% of the products tested contained antimony based flame retardants.
    • 20% of the products tested contained organotins.

“Retailers like Walgreens have the responsibility to sell products that are safe, not toxic,” said Mike Schade, Mind the Store Campaign Director for Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families. “While other big retailers like Target and Walmart are beginning to tackle toxic chemicals, Walgreens has yet to develop a comprehensive plan of action to address unnecessary dangerous chemicals in the products they sell.”

In recent months, several major national retailers including Walmart, Target, and Bed, Bath and Beyond have announced significant new initiatives to disclose and limit the use of chemicals that are known hazards and appear on the Mind the Store’s “Hazardous 100+” list. Walgreens is considered a laggard, having undertaken no major initiatives to address toxic chemicals in their supply chain and ignoring feedback from consumers and requests for meetings from environmental health organizations. My 7 year old told the store manager at the Vermont Walgreens about a teacher at her school has cancer. She (and I) want to protect others from getting cancer too. How can you argue with that message? The manager was friendly and promised to deliver our message. My girl and I are counting on Walgreen to protect her future-- and the future of all children-- from the harmful effects of toxic chemicals in consumer products. Will you join us in calling on Walgreens to take action and make a plan to limit toxic chemicals in the products they sell?

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