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Cleveland parents return Walgreens products containing toxic chemicals

Melanie Houston, April 17, 2014

Product take backs happening across the country as consumer pressure on retailers escalates

Cleveland, OH-Concerned parents and health professionals descended on the Walgreens in Shaker Heights today, saying the company should be doing more to reduce the sale of products containing toxic chemicals.

“Unfortunately, Walgreens lags behind other big retailers when it comes to taking action on toxic chemicals,” said Melanie Houston, Director of Environmental Health for the Ohio Environmental Council. “We hope that Walgreens is paying attention today, and will begin to Mind the Store. As the largest pharmacy chain in America, Walgreens should leverage its market power to sell safer and less toxic products to its customers.”

The shoppers pointed to a new study showing that some Walgreens products contain harmful chemicals linked to cancer, learning disabilities, infertility, and other serious health conditions. The event was part of a national “Mind the Store” day of action to raise awareness about toxic chemicals in consumer products. Similar events took place at more than 45 Walgreens stores nationwide.  

Today’s actions were in response to a new study by HealthyStuff.org–a project of the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan–which found that many Walgreens products contain hazardous chemicals. Parents and soon-to-be nurses returned products containing the toxic chemicals and delivered postcards to the store manager signed by concerned customers, asking that Walgreens address toxic chemicals in the products they sell. 

Since April 2013, more than 60,000 customers have sent letters to Walgreens,  urging the company to create an action plan on the “Hazardous 100+” toxic chemicals. To date, the company has not responded to the Mind the Store campaign’s letters or requests to meet. The Mind the Store Campaign has been encouraging Walgreens to adopt a comprehensive chemicals policy.

Scientists at HealthyStuff.org tested 44 products from Walgreens, including household cleaning products, school supplies, pet toys and other everyday consumer products.

“Our new study shows that some products sold at Walgreens contain toxic chemicals like phthalates, flame retardants and vinyl plastic,” said Jeff Gearhart, research director for the Ecology Center and HealthyStuff.org. “It shouldn’t be a case of ‘buyer beware,’ when shopping for consumer products. Retailers have a responsibility to offer safer products. As a result we have joined our partners in the Mind the Store Campaign to call on Walgreens to get products containing toxic chemicals off of their store shelves.”

“Retailers like Walgreens have the responsibility to sell products that are safe, not toxic,” said Mike Schade, Mind the Store Campaign Director for Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families. “While other big retailers like Target and Walmart are beginning to tackle toxic chemicals, Walgreens has yet to develop a comprehensive plan of action to address unnecessary dangerous chemicals in the products they sell.”

In recent months, several major national retailers including Walmart, Target, and Bed, Bath and Beyond have announced significant new initiatives to disclose and limit the use of chemicals that are known hazards and that appear on the Mind the Store’s “Hazardous 100+” list. Walgreens is considered a laggard, having undertaken no major initiatives to address toxic chemicals in their supply chain and ignoring feedback from consumers and requests for meetings from environmental health organizations. 

High resolution photos of the specific products, some of which are Walgreens branded products, and test results are available at HealthyStuff.org.

The Ohio Environmental Council is part of the national Mind the Store Campaign, coordinated by Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, which is challenging the top ten US retailers to get tough on toxic chemicals.  

For more information on the April 16th national day of action, visit www.saferchemicals.org.