State Leaders Descend on Walgreens with One Message: Mind the Store!
April 27, 2014
In an impressive show of force, leaders with years of experience under their belts pressing for strong state and federal chemical reforms came out last week to call on Walgreens to Mind the Store. Concerned parents, environmental justice leaders, health professionals, members of faith communities, students, families affected by breast cancer, learning disabilities, and other diseases linked to toxic chemicals visited their local Walgreens with one urgent message: get tough on toxic chemicals.
The shoppers pointed to a new study from scientists at Healthystuff.org showing that some Walgreens products contain harmful chemicals linked to cancer, learning disabilities, infertility and other serious health conditions.
Participants returned products they had purchased the preceding week like vinyl shower curtains, hand soap, toothpaste, school supplies and pet toys containing high amounts of lead, phthalates, and other heavy metals to make a point -- we don't want to expose ourselves and our families to these chemicals, too many of us are impacted by the chronic diseases they can trigger.
Many expressed surprise and concern that Walgreens is falling behind other retailers like Target and Bed Bath and Beyond who have begun to tackle the problem of toxic chemicals. Over the past year, 60,000+ customers have urged Walgreens to create an action plan on the "Hazardous Hundred" worst of the worst chemicals in every day products. So far, Walgreens has failed to respond.
"In my career as a neonatal nurse I cared for some of the most vulnerable members of our society," said Joyce Stein, RN, BSN, president of the Southeast Michigan Association of Neonatal Nurses. "Infants, children and pregnant women need greater protection from toxic chemicals linked to adverse health affects. That's why I'm here calling on Walgreens to step up and get toxics chemicals off of their store shelves."
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. Additionally, Walgreens carries a broad selection of personal care products that contain chemicals linked to cancer, reproductive disorders and other health damage like triclosan in toothpaste and handsoap.
"It's disheartening to know that we aren't better protected from chemicals like triclosan in toothpaste or hand wash sold by Walgreens," said Lila Farino, senior at Suffolk University, around the corner from Boston's flagship Walgreens. "Even worse, not all ingredients are listed on product labels so we don't really know what hazardous chemicals we are exposed to overall. This has got to change."
Most shoppers reported that the conversations with Walgreens store managers went well, and were assured their concerns would be shared with Walgreens leadership. Disappointingly, when asked for comment by reporters at The Providence Journal the day of the mobilization, a Walgreens spokesperson offered this statement: "We work closely with our product suppliers to ensure all regulatory requirements are met."
So, together with our allies at the Mind the Store campaign, we're planning to keep the pressure on Walgreens until they recognize that developing a plan to move away from toxic chemicals in products on their store shelves would be a smart way to respect their customers' feedback.
"As a St. Lawrence Island Yupik mother and grandmother, I am concerned about the health and well-being of my children and grandchildren. My people from St. Lawrence Island, Alaska have already been harmed from toxic chemicals associated with military and global contaminants. It is unfair that we also have to worry about harmful chemicals found in products we buy in stores such as Walgreens. We want Walgreens to be a leader and stop being part of this environmental injustice." Vi Waghiyi, Native Village of Savoonga Tribal Member, and Environmental Health and Justice Program Director, Alaska Community Action on Toxics