By Maureen Swanson, Learning Disabilities Association of America

Walgreens is pretty amazing. A little over a decade ago, the national drug store chain overhauled the way they hire, train, and retain employees. Walgreens initiated a program to hire people with physical, developmental and intellectual disabilities that involved major changes to their company processes, practices and policies.

Today in Walgreens’ distribution centers, employees with disabilities and employees without disabilities work side by side, meeting the same standards and on the same pay scale. Walgreens announced in 2012 that their next step is to expand this hiring practice to their retail stores too, with a goal of having people with disabilities make up at least 20 percent of their workforce.

Why? Because it was the right thing to do; because Walgreens recognized that people who could be great employees were being excluded from the workplace; and because it made good business sense.

Today, four national organizations serving people with learning, developmental and intellectual disabilities sent a letter to Walgreens asking them to again step up as industry leaders.

Autism Society, the Learning Disabilities Association, National Down Syndrome Society and The Arc have asked Walgreens to “Mind the Store” by developing and implementing an action plan to get toxic chemicals out of the products they sell.

My local Walgreens carries a wide range of toys, personal care products, baby items and cleaning products.  Mounting scientific evidence shows that the chemicals in many of these products are contributing to learning and developmental disorders, cancers, infertility and asthma.

The Safer Chemicals Healthy Families’ Mind the Store campaign focuses on the “Hazardous 100+” chemicals in consumer goods. These chemicals are of high concern, linked by solid scientific evidence to chronic diseases and disorders, and identified as such by at least two authoritative government agencies.

Toxic chemicals in consumer goods include neurotoxins such as lead and brominated flame retardants, carcinogens such as formaldehyde and styrene, and endocrine disruptors like bisphenol A and triclosan.  Many of these chemicals especially threaten the health and well-being of children, beginning in utero.

Our organizations are hopeful that Walgreens will again demonstrate great leadership and innovation by taking steps to ensure that the products on their shelves are free of toxic chemicals.

Why? Because it’s the right thing to do; because we think Walgreens will recognize that harmful chemicals have no place in the products they sell, and because it makes good business sense.

We look forward to working with them.

Join us in asking Walgreens and other retailers to Mind the Store – send them an email today!