Calling on Walgreens to remove toxic products from their shelves finds hazardous chemicals at Walgreens

Ecology Center members, staff and other volunteers demonstrated outside an Ann Arbor Walgreen's store earlier this month, part of a national day of action to convince the retailer to eliminate toxic chemicals from the products on their shelves.

The demonstrations coincided with the release of a report by, a project of the Ecology Center, documenting the presence of hazardous chemicals, including arsenic, lead, bromine, chlorine, mercury and cadmium in pet products, children’s products, and other home goods purchased from Walgreens stores. Walgreens is the nation’s largest drugstore chain.

The study is part of ongoing research by on harmful chemicals in consumer products sold by each of the top ten retailers in the U.S. (Results can be found at the Retailer Center.)



The chemicals found in the products have been linked to asthma, birth defects, learning disabilities, reproductive problems, liver toxicity, and cancer.

"Retailers like Walgreens have the responsibility to sell products that are safe, not toxic,” said Mike Schade, director of the Mind the Store campaign led by 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." 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 as toxic by state and federal agencies.

"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 "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."

Laboratory tests 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. All 13 vinyl products screened for phthalates 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.

Nearly a third of the products tested contained high chlorine levels, suggesting they may be made of the toxic plastic, polyvinyl chloride (PVC or vinyl). In addition, a pet tennis ball contained elevated levels of lead; more than a quarter of the products tested contained antimony based flame retardants; and 20 percent of the products tested contained organotins, which are used as additives to vinyl plastic.

In recent months, 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 hasn't taken similar initiatives to address toxic chemicals in their supply chain and has ignored 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.

EcoLink — April 2014
An online publication of the Ecology Center

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