Washington, DC – Concerned parents and health professionals descended on nearly 50 Walgreens stores nationwide today, saying the company has failed to take action on toxic chemicals in their products. 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 of toxic chemicals in consumer products.

Today’s actions were in response to a new study by HealthyStuff.org (a project of the Ecology Center), which found that many Walgreens products contained hazardous chemicals. Parents returned the products containing toxic chemicals, and delivered postcards to the store manager. Advocates also launched a new national petition and expressed their concern on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

Since April 2013, over 60,000 customers have sent Walgreens letters 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.

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.”

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

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.”

New research into toxic chemicals in Walgreens products:

Laboratory testing identified high levels of phthalates in a number of products sold at Walgreens, including a 3-ring binder, vinyl shower curtain, iPod/iPhone charger, and handbag purse. Of the 13 vinyl products screened for phthalates, all 13 tested positive for regulated phthalates at levels greater than 10,000 ppm. Examples include:

  • A vinyl shower curtain contained 18.2% of the phthalate DEHP.
  • A vinyl 3-ring binder contained 14.3% of the phthalate DINP.
  • Vinyl cleaning gloves contained 37.5% of the phthalate DINP.
  • A blue handbag purse contained 4.5% of the phthalate DEHP.
  • An iPod/iPhone/iPad charger contained 32.7% of the phthalate DINP.
  • About 30% (13 of 44) of the products tested contained high chlorine levels, suggesting they may be made of the toxic plastic, polyvinyl chloride (PVC or vinyl).
  • A pet tennis ball contained elevated levels of lead.
  • About 27% of the products tested contained antimony based flame retardants.
  • 20% of the products tested contained organotins, which are used as additives to vinyl plastic.

Actor, producer, mother and public health advocate Jennifer Beals weighed in support of today’s actions,

It is my hope that Walgreens listens to our message today. Every one, regardless of income and education, should have access to safe, non-toxic products. I admire and support all the brave advocates who will be visiting their Walgreens store today in support of safer chemicals.” Beals is an outspoken public health advocate, having made two trips to Washington D.C. in support of strong laws on toxic chemicals.

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 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.

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