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TOWSON—While Target shareholders attended the company’s annual meeting in Cleveland, Ohio, today Maryland PIRG and concerned Maryland customers protested at their local Target store, urging the company to phase out PVC products and packaging. Two hundred similar protests happened across the country as part of a national day of action urging Target to phase out the use of toxic PVC.
PVC (polyvinyl chloride), commonly known as vinyl, contains poisonous chemicals that off-gas into the air we breathe and can cause health risks including cancer and birth defects. Despite these dangers, PVC is used to make children’s toys, teething rings, shower curtains, lunchboxes, shampoo bottles and home building materials. Today activists delivered a petition with over 10,000 signatures to Target’s CEO demanding that the company phase-out products made with or packaged in PVC.
“The production of products made with PVC poses serious public health threats, requiring the use of cancer-causing chemicals such as vinyl chloride,” said Johanna Neumann, policy advocate for Maryland PIRG. “We hope that Target will do the right thing and phase-out PVC in favor of healthier alternatives.”
A new report, "Way Off Target: A Critical Assessment of Target’s PVC Products & Packaging," details how Target lags behind other major retailers who have committed to replacing PVC with safe alternatives. Wal-Mart and Apple announced plans to phase out PVC in baby bibs, children’s products and computers earlier this month. Nike, Microsoft, Ikea, H&M and Johnson & Johnson have made similar announcements. More than 60 environmental groups and 40,000 customers have signed petitions, sent letters, faxes and made telephone calls to Target urging them to phase out PVC.
“Target claims to be an environmentally-friendly retailer, and yet their shelves are filled with products made from PVC, the poison plastic,” said Lois Gibbs, Executive Director of the Center for Health, Environment & Justice. “We won’t stop until Target agrees to phase out PVC and switches to healthier alternatives as other companies have already done.”
Today’s Way Off Target report focuses on three key areas in which Target sells many products made of PVC: children’s products and toys, shower curtains and packaging. Target customers may be exposed to highly toxic chemicals from using these products in their homes.
Summary of the report’s findings:
Toxic Toys – Infants and children chewing on PVC toys and baby products may be exposed to phthalates. Phthalates are a class of chemicals linked to premature birth delivery, early puberty in girls, impaired sperm quality and sperm damage in men, genital defects and reduced testosterone production in boys. Wal-Mart announced this month that they will stop selling PVC baby bibs and is working toward an industry standard to eliminate PVC from all products intended for use by children. Wal-Mart has also phased out PVC lunchboxes. Ikea phased out all PVC toys over 10 years ago.
Toxic Shower Curtains – In 2002 researchers at the US EPA reported a PVC shower curtain “can cause elevated indoor air toxic concentrations…for more than a month.” Target customers have repeatedly complained on Target’s website about strong chemical odors being released from the shower curtains they sell. Ikea stopped selling PVC products including vinyl shower curtains over ten years ago.
Toxic Packaging – More than two billion pounds per year of short-lived PVC products, such as packaging, are discarded with U.S. household trash. In fact, nondurable products, such as packaging, account for more than 70% of the PVC disposed of in U.S. municipal waste. In 2005, Wal-Mart committed to eliminating all private label PVC packaging in two years. PVC packaging has been banned in several countries including Canada, Czech Republic, Spain and South Korea.
Toxic Life Cycle –The manufacturing and disposal of PVC are harmful, releasing highly hazardous chemicals including dioxins and furans, vinyl chloride, ethylene dichloride, lead, phthalates and mercury into the environment. PVC manufacturing facilities have exposed workers and fenceline neighbors to toxic carcinogens and caused major air pollution, chemical spills and contaminated drinking water supplies.
“As Target can see by today’s events, they will be held accountable for knowingly selling products that are harmful to our health and environment,” said Gibbs. “We hope they will do the right thing and shift to products and packaging that are safer for our families and future.”
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