Is Walmart on the right track in eliminating toxins from their products?

Walmart announced it'll eliminate toxic chemicals by ecokaren

Back in April of 2013,  Safer Chemical Healthy Family (SCHF) started  Mind the Store Challenge and urged 10 biggest retailers, including Walmart, to change their policy on toxic chemicals and to create an action plan to address 100+ hazardous chemicals in their consumer products. And kudos to their persistent pressure with emails and petitions, Walmart recently announced that they intend to start changing their sustainable chemical policy. Here is the actual announcement from Walmart and how they plan to implement this policy change.

Their new policy on sustainable chemistry is HUGE since Walmart is No. 1 retailer in the country and I assume others will follow. I don’t shop at Walmart nor at Target because my eyes get teary from all the toxic chemicals in the store but I do go to Sam’s Club, a wholesale club that Walmart owns, where I buy bulk items and some organic items. So this news is a victory, in my mind. Yes, Walmart is still far from being perfect and yes, their labor practices also need changing but this sustainable chemical policy change is hopeful. But also, I’m optimistic that other big retailers, like Target, Walgreen’s, Costco, Lowe’s and alike will soon follow in its footsteps.

So what does Walmart sustainable chemical policy mean?

On a recent call between SCHF and Walmart’s Sustainability Team, Walmart told SCHF that “they were taking calls and emails seriously and were carefully assessing the Hazardous 100+.”

Walmart announced:

  • By January 2015, Walmart will require manufacturers who sell cleaning products, cosmetics, baby and personal care products to disclose the ingredients used in their products online;
  • Walmart will seek to reduce and eliminate from certain product lines;
  • Walmart will work with their suppliers to move towards safer alternatives;
  • Walmart-brand cleaners will no longer contain toxic chemicals outlined by the EPA’s Design for the Environment program;

Andy Igrejas, executive director of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families said:

This is an unusually substantive announcement and Walmart deserves credit for that. We’re encouraged that they’ve described this as just the beginning of action on chemicals rather than the end.

While the number of chemicals is limited, the action is meaningful. They are not just moving away from several known toxic chemicals but are going deeper, using their position to make sure the alternatives are safer. That’s progress that can ripple across the marketplace.

Also, the EPA’s Design for the Environment label is one of the few eco-labels that means something. If they pursue it for their private label products, the changes could be substantial and also bolster that label’s profile. Further, ingredient disclosure in a broad category of products will help consumers.

Clearly, the problem is much bigger, but Walmart’s announcement today appears to be a meaningful down payment on an enhanced chemical policy. We urge other retailers to both learn from and improve upon it. 

On a personal note..

One of my high school friends is battling cancer as I write this. I don’t know if she ever shopped at Walmart. I don’t know if she was exposed to the chemicals Walmart is eliminating for sure but I bet she was at some point, from somewhere. As recently as last week, Proctor and Gamble announced that they will eliminate toxic chemicals triclosan and diethyl phthalate (DEP) from all its products by 2014, according to an announcement on the company’s website. P&G is the world’s largest manufacturer of consumer products, home to iconic brands including Cover Girl, Tide, Crest and Ivory. Who hasn’t used Ivory soap in their lives?

I’m sure my friend used these common household products, including health and beauty products from P & G. Obviously, there will never be a study on her body to confirm if any of these chemicals caused her cancer but something in her environment caused cancer as studies have shown, 90% of all cancer have no family history. In other words, cancer is not caused by genetics; it’s environmental. And it makes sense since we are exposed to more than 84,000 synthetic chemicals in our lives but only 7% have been tested. Only 7%! That means, we are a bunch or lab rats. This is totally unacceptable. And this is why I always urge everyone to eat organic, put on organic or natural non-toxic make up as our skin is the biggest organ in our body, and don’t be exposed to synthetic pesticides or hormones.

Walmart eliminating 100+ hazardous chemicals will lower the chances of millions of people being exposed to these potentially cancer causing chemicals.

Is Walmart on the right path?

Absolutely!

Is it greenwashing? We’ll wait and see if they carry out the policy they said they would. Will others follow? I think so.

A big shout out goes to SCHF in influencing Walmart’s decision and so glad organizations like SCHF exist. As one of SCHF bloggers involved in the Mind the Store Challenge, my friend Anna from Green Talk went to Lowe’s in April with the same message. I’m hoping Lowe’s and 8 other retailers will follow Walmart’s suit and eliminate these toxic chemicals from their products.

What do you think? Is Walmart’s effort to eliminate toxic chemicals, enough to make you shop there more often? Do you think Walmart’s sustainable chemical policy will make other retailers to follow suit? Is Walmart on the right track in eliminating toxins from their products?

Image: CC photo by Walmart via Flickr

NOTE: The information in this post is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Dr. Karen disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information. Opinions and statements on this website have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. The information is for general consumer understanding and education, and should not be considered or used as a substitute for medical advice and it is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. I am not your doctor and you should consult with a qualified health care professional on any matter relating to their health and well being on one-on-one basis with thorough physical examination. Dr. Karen encourages you to make your own health care decisions based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified health care professional. Products Dr. Karen recommends and their properties have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition, consult your physician before using the products. For more info, visit the Disclaimer page.

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Comments

  1. says

    I think when the big giant rumbles, there will be shifts in the marketplace.  It is a start!  
    Also thanks for the shout out on Lowes.  I wish more attention was paid to our building products.

  2. lorialper1 says

    I don’t think it’s greenwashing (at least I’m hoping it’s not). Consumer pressure finally got to Walmart. The changes they’re making are what the public is demanding. It’s a baby step and there’s a long way to go….. but a baby step in the right direction. My concern is that these changes will create a false sense of security. Walmart’s is looking at 10 chemicals, while the list includes over 100. We still need to be informed consumers and read the labels.

  3. says

    lorialper1 I hope so too Lori. But we need to eliminate toxins faster than the new toxins we create. It’s a vicious cycle and I’m just afraid the math doesn’t add up. We need more retailers on board fast.

  4. says

    Anna@Green Talk That’s what we hope for…that the big giant will wake up others like Lowe’s, Home Depot, Walgreen’s Target….

  5. chelseaboots says

    I will be keeping an eye out to see if it is greenwashing with Walmart and any other store that comes on board the “green” bandwagon. I have switched all cleaners to companies that have made a commitment long ago and am also using basic items like vinegar in my home. Just recently I have switched my cosmetics as well. I don’t feel the need to support the mega stores and I search out local markets and stores that have been in my community for a long time and went “green” years ago.

  6. says

    chelseaboots Great that you switched to basic cleaning methods and got rid of toxic cosmetics too! Local is always the best way to go! Frankly, eliminating toxins is just scratching the surface. We need tougher laws and chem testing methods BEFORE they hit the shelves. But that will take a new set of policies and procedures. It will take more than just one company eliminating toxins to do that, no matter how big it is.

  7. Laura Weingart Wray says

    I don’t know. Very interested to see the following comments.

  8. The Beehive Salon Islip says

    absolutely! If they are doing good I would support them. That’s a simple choice. As for the ohter areas where they may “lack” one step at a time…

  9. inventivecreative1 says

    I don’t shop at Walmart and haven’t shopped at Target in several years but last year, a friend of mine had purchased a piece of fitness equipment for me as a thank you for some editing work I’d done for an academic paper.  I felt bad because I had to return it after reading a warning label concerning some known carcinogens in the product.
    I’d like to think that my little stand on the matter (I really wanted to use the product too!) was a miniscule contribution on my part to their decision.  
    Consequently, if anyone knows where I can find someone who makes Bamboo Hula Hoops, please let me know!  I will gladly purchase one.

  10. says

    inventivecreative1 We’ve asked our relatives to never buy anything from Target or Walmart for us or give our kids gift certificates for that reason. Bamboo hula hoops? Hmm…gotta think about that one.