Remember when I went into Walgreens and asked them to take steps to remove toxic chemicals from the products they sell? These toxic chemicals have been linked to cancer, infertility, learning and developmental disabilities, behavioral problems,obesity, diabetes, and asthma.
Walmart is the world’s biggest multinational retailer, with “superstores” selling everything from clothes and electronics to furniture and groceries and it’s decided to take steps towards selling safer products.
Walmart’s Plan of Action
“Walmart customers expect products that are safe, affordable and sustainable.”
~Walmart Policy on Sustainable Chemistry in Consumables
Walmart is taking consumer pressure seriously and announced that it will try to get their suppliers to disclose and eventually phase out 10 potentially toxic chemicals from personal care products, cosmetics and cleaning products sold in its stores. Walmart has also agreed to work with their suppliers to move towards safer alternatives.
The disclosure practices will begin in 2015 and apply to cleaners, personal care products, cosmetics and baby care.
Also part of the plan-Walmart brand cleaners will no longer contain toxic chemicals outlined by the EPA’s Design for the Environment program.
Good First Step, but a Long Way to Go
While this appears to be a giant leap in the right direction, there are a few pieces of Walmart’s big news that are concerning.
- Walmart has yet to disclose which chemicals would be phased out. They have confirmed that all 10 chemicals appear on the list of chemicals that Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families published in April as part of its Mind the Store campaign. Why won’t they tell us what the 10 are right now? What’s the secrecy all about? If you’re aiming for full transparency this isn’t a very good way to start.
- Consumers still need to do their homework before purchasing a product. Walmart’s taking a step towards transparency, but we can’t assume that all of their products will now be safe. Remember-they’re only committing to phase out 10 toxic chemicals while there are over 100 on the list. A product could still contain other toxic chemicals in addition to the 10 secret ingredients that Walmart is planning to phase out. This is a good first step, but there is still a long way to go.
In Walmart’s defense, it described this as just the beginning of action on chemicals rather than the end. I’m generally not a Walmart shopper, but I do know that these changes will ultimately impact the safety of the products I buy. Even though I have concerns, this step by Walmart shouldn’t be taken lightly-it’s a huge undertaking with half a million products in every store from more than 100,000 suppliers. We know other retailers are watching how this whole thing plays out. Fingers crossed that they will soon follow Walmart’s lead.
What do you think about Walmart’s announcement to disclose and phase out a few toxic chemicals?