Mind the Store: Female Consumers Demand Fewer Chemicals

4 years ago

One of my favorite childhood memories was going to Target, of all places. My mom would buy a small popcorn as a little treat and while she pushed the cart through those long red aisles, I got to munch on a salty snack.

Many of us have connections and memories to the stores in which we shop. Some of us prefer certain retailers over others. Would your loyalty change if you knew a certain retailer was taking the lead to phase out products that contain certain toxic chemicals? If you could know that walking into their store meant that the products were safer than those sold elsewhere?

Image: © Christoph Martin/Image Source/ZUMA Press.

Women have a big role to play in the quest to move the marketplace to safer, less toxic products. Shockingly (or not, depending on how you look at it), women still make up over 80% of the purchasing decisions in the average American home. And because of that, women have a powerful opportunity to help transform the marketplace. In fact, we’ve already started.

Due to consumer (mostly female) demands, the market has shifted away from the toxic chemical BPA, and polycarbonate plastic is hard to find in water bottles or baby bottles. Women are asking more questions about toxic flame retardants found in 85% of couches sold in America and consumer electronics.

But due to our weak federal laws on toxic chemicals, once one chemical in a product is phased out, often time an equally toxic chemical is used to replace it. The Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition has been working with women across the country to urge Congress to get tough on toxic chemicals.

There’s been progress, but Congress has been moving too slow for many of us. That’s why there is a new, and exciting effort called Mind the Store, to work with the nation’s leading retailers to get tough on toxic chemicals. We know the government isn’t minding the store and retailers have a huge opportunity to move the marketplace away from these toxic chemicals.  

And guess what, the retailers have only 4 more days to respond to our initial request. (Send a letter to them now!)

It’s our hope that some of the baby steps retailers have taken on toxic chemicals can drastically expand and to a more comprehensive approach to chemical hazards. Target for example, has eliminated the use of PVC plastic in their store brand children’s products, a good but small first step.

We’re asking the leading retailers to work with us to create an action plan, or corporate policy, on chemicals that focuses on reducing the Hazardous 100+ chemicals.

These chemicals have been compiled from various authoritative lists and include emerging chemicals of concern. So what are some of the chemicals we’re talking about and where are they found?

  • Phthalates [in PVC plastic, flooring, building materials and school supplies]
  • Formaldehyde and formaldehyde releasing preservatives [in shampoos, lotions, wrinkle-free clothing and bedding]
  • Parabens [in cosmetics and personal care products] 

For more information on how to avoid these chemicals, visit the Mind the Store website.

While I believe it’s a myth that we can fully protect ourselves by our consumer choices alone, I do believe our purchasing decisions matter. I think it’s an unfair burden to place on men and women alike to try to navigate this complex marketplace. The path toward reducing our toxic chemicals combines a force of consumers demanding safer products from retailers, public support for stronger state and federal laws, and retailers stepping up to Mind the Store.

With all engines firing, we have the opportunity to protect what is at the heart of this whole issue - our health.

Join me and send a message to retailers today, asking them to get tough on toxic chemicals. 

~Lindsay Dahl, Deputy Director of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families

Lindsay on Twitter: @Lindsay_SCHF

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