Walgreens Mind the Store: Remove Toxic Chemicals from your shelves!



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After a long day of teaching, I grabbed my 7 year old, and headed to find the one of 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.

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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 HealthyStuff.org (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 HealthyStuff.org 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 HealthyStuff.org. “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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13 Responses to Walgreens Mind the Store: Remove Toxic Chemicals from your shelves!

  1. Lindsay April 16, 2014 at 10:44 pm #

    Katy, this is so awesome and your daughter is brave! Thanks so much for making today complete, so glad to have your leadership in VT. And thanks for making the drive!

    • Katy April 18, 2014 at 9:37 pm #

      You are so welcome! Didn't know if we would stave off hunger but that chocolate milk she had sure helped. Glad to do it for Mind the Store. Thanks for commenting and for all your work to keep our kids safe.

  2. Anne April 17, 2014 at 2:03 pm #

    What an adorable helper you have! I visited my Walgreens while the kids were at school. The hardest part was that the hormone-disrupting triclosan-laced soap I had to return had the cutest picture of Hello Kitty on it, and my youngest didn't quite understand why we couldn't keep it.

    • Katy April 18, 2014 at 9:38 pm #

      Thanks! She actually got into it and talked quite a bit to the manager. Cancer has really hit home for us, with a dear friend and a teacher, so this means a lot. Thanks for commenting!

    • Katy April 20, 2014 at 6:29 pm #

      Hi Anne! Thanks for commenting and for visiting your local Walgreens! I find it a confusing message for kids when things are cute but toxic. Ugh! That's why this is so important. Thanks again.

  3. @Mike_Schade April 17, 2014 at 6:36 pm #

    Kathy – thanks to you and your daughter taking the time to make the trek and educate your area store manager about this important issue. And who can argue with a seven year old? Thanks for your help and partnership on Mind the Store! 🙂

    • @Mike_Schade April 18, 2014 at 10:15 pm #

      PS Who's Kathy? Holy typo batman. Sorry Katy! 🙂 Thanks again for taking the time to share your story!

      • Katy April 20, 2014 at 6:30 pm #

        No problem Mike! You are so welcome. Thanks for all your work on this issue. Hopefully we will see some movement now. I also have a video outside of the Walgreens– just haven't had a chance to post it yet.

        Thanks for commenting!

  4. Lori Popkewitz Alper April 17, 2014 at 10:29 pm #

    That's a long drive to the nearest Walgreens. Thank you so much for your effort. I love that your daughter was able to join you. Her voice is so important.

    • Katy April 18, 2014 at 9:39 pm #

      Thanks so much Lori! I appreciate you going too! Just watched your video, great job. Thanks for commenting.

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