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New Era for Wal-Mart? Retail Giant to Phase Out Toxic Chemicals

Walmart makeup

Is Wal-Mart turning over a new leaf? That’s up to you to decide, but the retail giant is definitely taking a step in the right direction, environmentally and health-wise that is. Recently Wal-Mart announced its plan to begin the phase out of 10 toxic chemicals found in fragrances, cosmetics, household cleaners and personal care products that it carries in its stores.

“The objective of this policy is to help ensure that household cleaning, personal care, beauty and cosmetic products sold by Wal-Mart will minimize hazards to people or the environment,” Wal-Mart said in a statement.

What these 10 soon-to-be-phased-out chemicals are remains a mystery though. In a conference call with the media, Associated Press reports that Andrea Thomas, Wal-Mart’s senior vice president of sustainability, said that the company first wants to work collaboratively with suppliers before making details public. She also stated that the company picked “high-priority” chemicals based on their impact extent and the availability of safe and affordable alternatives.

According to USA Today, Wall-Mart will begin requiring suppliers to disclose ingredients online for items sold in its stores starting in January 2015. Then in the following year, the company will start reporting publicly on the progress being made.

“Wal-Mart’s policy signals a new era of going beyond regulatory compliance to reduce the use of hazardous chemicals,” said Mark Rossi, co-director of Clean Production Action. “Companies like Wal-Mart are realizing they need to be proactive instead of reactive to the rapidly increasing consumer demand for safer products.”

Wal-Mart is joining the ranks with other major companies who are gradually shifting away from toxic chemicals in consumer products. Just last week, Procter & Gamble announced it will eliminate phthalates and triclosan from its products. And in 2012, Johnson & Johnson pledged to remove formaldehyde, parabens and two other suspicious chemicals from its personal care products worldwide. Also back in 2007, Target, Sears, Kmart and Wal-Mart began phasing out polyvinyl choride (PVC) from certain products.

This decision can definitely have some significant impacts across both retail and manufacturing industries. Moreover, it’s coming at a time when our government is moving slowly on public health and environmental issues, showing perhaps that the private sector is where we’ll turn to for lasting change in the long term, or at least where quicker changes can be made.

Andy Igrejas, executive director of Safer Chemicals, Health Families, told USA Today that the government has not made a major updated to the U.S. Toxic Control Substances Act since its passage in 1976 even though most chemicals used today in products are not federally tested nor are companies required to submit safety data.

Hopefully with time our government will follow in the steps of Wal-Mart and other leading companies and make even greater leaps of its own. In the interim, we’ll have to keep pushing our governmental bodies and our companies, both big and small, to make necessary changes that will result in a better, healthier future for all.

Image source: Clean Wal-Mart / Flickr

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