Robin Schneider, Executive Director
If you’ve had one of our canvassers at your door or on the phone lately, you already know that we are putting lots of effort into campaigns to have retailers phase toxic chemicals out of the consumer products they sell. Our supporters have already written thousands of letters to Walgreens, Best Buy and Family Dollar, and many have signed the national Change.org petition on Family Dollar – which now boasts over 150,000 signatures nationwide. If you’ve added your voice to this effort, thank you!
This strategy of putting direct consumer pressure on retailers is delivering results. We are part of the national Mind the Store campaign that has convinced Walmart and Target to commit to developing safer chemicals policies. Just a few months ago, Home Depot and Lowe’s committed to removing the class of toxic chemicals known as phthalates (pronounced THAL-ates) out of vinyl flooring – and to substitute safer materials, not chemicals that are just as bad or worse or where there is too little information to know. Phthalates are one of the “Hazardous 100” chemicals that we are currently pressuring Walgreens to phase out by adopting a safer chemicals policy this year as well.
toxic flame retardants
We are no stranger to this issue. When we challenged the electronics industry to start recycling, we also raised the concern of toxic flame retardant chemicals that the computer and TV manufacturers used in their plastics. We recruited a new mother in Texas to submit a breast milk sample for a national study. Unfortunately, every sample of mother’s milk in that study tested positive for the toxic fire retardants found in electronics. (It’s still important to breastfeed for all the health benefits.) Other studies have found these chemicals in the blood of umbilical cords. Toxic flame retardants have become known as the asbestos of our time.
Thanks to strong public pressure, these chemicals have been phased out of many computers. Best Buy has removed toxic flame retardants from their own brand of TVs (Insignia). Now we are urging Best Buy to get toxic flame retardants out of all the other brands of TVs they sell.
These toxic flame retardants are also found in furniture. Mind the Store has succeeded in persuading Ashley Furniture and Macy’s to require that the upholstered furniture they sell does not use toxic flame retardant chemicals. Now we’re putting pressure on Pier 1 Imports to make similar commitment for all the furniture it sells.
[UPDATE: After we held a demonstration at their Fort Worth headquarters and delivered hundreds of letters to CEO Alex Smith, Pier 1 has publicly announced its commitment to phase out toxic flame retardants in its furniture! Read more about our victory here.]
We are also working closely with environmental justice allies in the Campaign for Healthier Solutions coalition who are leading the effort to pressure the major discount store chains to protect their customers from toxic chemicals. A recent study found that 81% of the products tested at dollar stores contained at least one hazardous chemical above levels of concern. In many communities, there are very few (if any) alternatives for residents to purchase everyday products. But ALL families deserve safer products on store shelves – especially those who can least afford to pay top dollar for specialty products. You can read more about this campaign here.
Texans know that we cannot always rely on the federal or state government to protect us. Big chemical companies have armies of lobbyists at the U.S. and State Capitols. So we are organizing direct consumer pressure, at the grassroots level, in the second most populous state in the country. We are demanding that retailers tell their suppliers to make safer products available. This is a proven, effective strategy to safeguard the health and well-being of our families.
We will keep you posted on our efforts, as always. Thank you for all you do to help us win campaigns like these.
Robin Schneider, Executive Director
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