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Families just got a boost in their efforts to keep toxins away from their families, group says
Parents concerned about what's in the products they buy for their families and the effects they might have just got a boost from a major retailer. - photo by Lois M. Collins
Retail giant Wal-Mart has just revealed a list of eight "high-priority" chemicals it has asked suppliers to remove from products in the next three years. Removal of the potential toxins could help parents keep their families safe from accidental exposure.

According to a news release from the Mind the Store Campaign, created by Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, the use of the chemicals has been reduced by 95 percent already because of the effort Wal-Mart started in 2013. The chemicals include "certain phthalates, formaldehyde and triclosan."

The campaign's director, Mike Schade, called it "an important milestone," but also encouraged the retailer to expand its list of high-priority chemicals targeted for removal from the products it sells.

Bloomberg reported that Wal-Mart's efforts to have the chemicals removed affect 90,000 products made by 70 companies.

Although the effort has been ongoing, this is the first time Wal-Mart has specified which chemicals it has targeted. On that list, according to Bloomberg:

  • Toluene, a clear liquid in some paint thinners, nail polish and fragrances
  • Diethyl phthalate, most often found in plastics, cosmetics, aspirin and insecticides
  • Nonylphenol exthoxylates, found in laundry detergent and other household products
  • The preservatives Butylparaben and Propylparaben
  • Dibutyl Phthalate, a solvent
"More than ever, people want to know more about the food and other products they buy. Not only do they expect them to be safe, but also they want to know how they were made, and with what ingredients and materials. Yet the flood of information readily available from experts and peers, through the media or at the stroke of a keypad, can often confuse or concern as much as inform," Wal-Mart said in a statement on its corporate website.

The chemicals it selected for removal have certain properties that can affect human health or the environment, the company said, noting that the Environmental Defense Fund helped craft the list.

Bloomberg said Wal-Mart's not the only big retailer tackling the issue of the chemicals families may not know are in the products they use. "Target Corp. has also expanded its chemicals program, albeit with a different approach: The retailer last year quietly posted a list of hundreds of substances, including coal tars and bisphenol A, that its encouraging vendors to remove, offering incentives for them to do so. Target awards points to products for cleaning, beauty, baby-care and personal-care products that list ingredients and avoid suspect substances in a bow to customer preferences, the company has said."

The Mind the Store campaign also recently called on Kroger and Albertsons to remove BPA from its food packaging. "A recent report, Buyer Beware, found toxic BPA in 67 percent of food cans tested nationwide," the group said, including in "private-label canned goods tested at the two biggest dedicated grocery retailers in the United States: Kroger and Albertsons."

As the National Institutes of Health explains, "Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical produced in large quantities for use primarily in the production of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins." It's also found in a large portion of cans in which food products are packaged.