Mind-boggling numbers of toxics

Can you name a thousand cleaning and beauty products? Can you name a hundred? It’s hard to even imagine 90,000 products made by 700 manufacturers. Yet that’s the number of products that will have to change if manufacturers want to sell on Walmart shelves. See details in a Bloomberg News story.

Three years ago, Walmart told manufacturers that they would have until 2018 to either eliminate ten toxic chemicals from beauty and cleaning products, or else be prepared to list ingredients on a product label.

The world’s largest retailer clearly has clout: the threat of labeling was enough to spur manufacturers to reduce their use of these chemicals by 95% across the industry.

Walmart’s action didn’t come out of the blue. They are responding to demands from both consumers and lawmakers for safer products. Retailers are hearing directly from shoppers through the Mind The Store Campaign. And here in Oregon, our Toxic Free Kids Act sends a clear signal that we won’t turn a blind eye to chemicals that threaten our health and environment.

In fact, all ten of the chemicals on Walmart’s list are also under scrutiny as part of Oregon’s Toxic Free Kids Act. Any manufacturer who uses these ten chemicals in children’s products—or any of 56 other toxic hazards—will soon have to report to Oregon.

We’re hoping Oregon’s law will spur a quick move away from toxics in children’s products. But if avoiding reporting isn’t enough, the second phase of the law will require manufacturers to find safer alternatives if they want to sell in Oregon.

Walmart’s program also makes clear that demanding safer products won’t mean that store shelves are empty. If we demand safer products, manufacturers will rise to the challenge.

Walmart’s ten toxic chemicals:

  • Formaldehyde: cosmetics
  • Triclosan: soaps, toothpaste and cosmetics
  • Toluene: nail polish and fragrances
  • Diethyl phthalate, Dibutyl phthalate: cosmetics, aspirin
  • Nonylphenol exthoxylates: laundry detergent
  • Butylparabens, Propylparaben: cosmetics

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