Moving the Market

When states step up and pass policies, it changes what's on store shelves — for the better.

Big Retailers Mean Big Stakes

Picture $469 billion. It’s unimaginably huge. It’s more than Norway’s entire Gross Domestic Product. It’s also how much money WalMart brings in from the sale of toys, curtains, furniture, electronics and other household goods each year. So when WalMart removes even one toxic chemical from the products they sell, the ripple is felt around the globe.

So what does it take to move such a behemoth to act? According to WalMart spokesman Lorenzo Lopez, as reported in the Washington Post in 2011, the company was motivated to act after “a handful of states began banning PBDEs.” That's right — what moves these big markets is little old state policy. 

BPA: A Market Success Story

Remember bisphenol A (BPA), the endocrine-disrupting chemical once used in 95% of baby bottles on the market? It disappeared thanks to state policy. Several states were the first to ban the chemical from baby bottles in 2006. Ultimately the Food and Drug Administration followed with a ban. That’s why you can’t find a baby bottle today that is not labeled BPA-free. And 98% of infant formula containers sold in the U.S. are now BPA-free as well. And when Maine’s chemical disclosure gave the state the ability to ask companies if they used BPA in toys, Hasbro removed BPA from its toys.

 

Disclosure: The Next Market Frontier

One of the reasons toxic chemicals remain on store shelves is because consumers don't know they're there. Which is why states are passing policies that require companies let us know when dangerous chemicals are in their products. And when these dirty secrets are brought out into the light, the market responds.

Washington state began requiring data on 66 toxic chemicals in children’s products. And when the data came in, they were shocking. Carcinogens, formaldehyde, phthalates and toxic flame retardants — in everything from the toys kids chew on to the car seats meant to keep them safe.

And the market took note. In the wake of this, retailers from Target to WalMart decided to screen their products for chemicals on this list and develop policies to reduce and eliminate these chemicals. Time after time — disclosure policy leads to big change.

Minding the Store

Another front in moving the market is the Mind the Store campaign — dedicated to getting the nation's top ten retailers to phase the Hazardous Hundred chemicals out of their shelves. These ten companies — household names like Target and Walgreens — make up a huge number of the products of our daily lives. Using this established list of dangerous chemicals to guide purchasing means that consumers can shop without fear, and is a big step toward making daily life a whole lot safer.