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MARYLAND PIRG DELIVERS 135,000 PETITIONS TO WALGREENS – CALLS ON RETAILER TO PHASE OUT TOXIC CHEMICALS THAT TRIGGER ASTHMA
Baltimore, MD – Today Maryland health and environmental advocates delivered thousands of petitions from Maryland customers calling on Walgreen’s to adopt a comprehensive policy to phase out toxic chemicals in products. In total the group delivered 135,000 petitions to Walgreen’s from their customers across the country.
“Toxic chemicals commonly found on retail store shelves have been linked to serious health problems that are on the rise, including cancer and childhood asthma” said Matthew Wellington from the Maryland Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) Foundation. “For example, chemicals that release formaldehyde can be found in common children’s products like body washes, shampoos, and bubble baths. That’s a problem because formaldehyde is a human carcinogen according to the World Health Organization, it can cause respiratory damage in children, and it’s an asthma trigger.”
At 20%, the Baltimore City Health Department reports that Baltimore children have a rate of asthma that is twice the national average. And last winter, the Maryland PIRG Foundation released a report, “An Unnecessary Burden,” on links between toxic chemical exposure and asthma.
“We need to do everything we can to limit asthma triggers like formaldehyde in children’s products to cut down on the asthma problem in Baltimore,” said Wellington.
Johnson and Johnson has removed formaldehyde releasing chemicals from its entire product line. Now, the Maryland PIRG Foundation is calling on Walgreen’s to eliminate formaldehyde and formaldehyde releasers from children’s personal care products on its store shelves.
“Each day our children come into contact with known carcinogens. As a legislator committed to children’s welfare and a mother myself, I applaud business leaders who are taking steps to protect consumers and their children from dangerous toxins and hope to see other chains follow their example,” said Prince George’s County Delegate Angela Angel who sits on the Children’s Environmental Health and Protection Advisory Council.
Maryland PIRG has joined a national campaign, Mind the Store, which is calling on Walgreen’s to adopt a comprehensive policy to protect their customers, especially pregnant women and children from toxic chemicals in products. The campaign has been organizing in 20 states for two years. In December, Walgreen’s announced for the first time that they were in the process of developing such a policy, but have yet to release the details. 
“We’re pleased Walgreen’s is finally beginning to develop a policy, but we need them to act,” explained Wellington. “As the nation’s largest pharmacy chain, Walgreens is in the business of health and wellness, and it’s time for them to protect their customers.”
Big retailers like Target and Walmart have adopted comprehensive chemical management programs. Both Target and Walmart have identified priority chemicals of concern that they’re asking suppliers to address. 
“In the months to come, we will be paying close attention to the chemicals policy Walgreens develops and announces,” said Mike Schade, Mind the Store Campaign Director with Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families. “We are hopeful Walgreens will develop a policy that will promote greater disclosure of, avoidance and safer substitution of hazardous chemicals in the products they sell.”
Walgreens recently merged with Alliance Boots, a company which has developed a precautionary approach to chemicals in their supply chain. “If certain chemicals have been banned in their products in Europe, they should be here as well. It’s only common sense,” added Wellington on the merger.
Testing in 2014 conducted by the Maryland PIRG Foundation and by the Ecology Center identified chemicals of concern in a variety of products sold by Walgreens including toys, holiday decorations, Halloween gear, plastics, household cleaners, school supplies, pet toys and other categories.[8,9] Many were found to have one or more toxic chemicals. These chemicals include PVC, phthalates, organotins and heavy metals that have been linked to asthma, birth defects, learning disabilities, reproductive problems, liver toxicity, and cancer.
For more information on the Mind the Store campaign and Walgreens, visit http://saferchemicals.org/retailers/walgreens/
Maryland PIRG Foundation works to protect consumers and promote good government. We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate public, and offer meaningful opportunities for our health and wellbeing.
1. World Health Organization. 1999. "International Program on Chemical Safety, Environmental Health Criteria 89: Formaldehyde." http://www.inchem.org/documents/ehc/ehc/ehc89.htm
2. Asthma in Baltimore, Baltimore City Health Department, http://health.baltimorecity.gov/node/454
3. An Unnecessary Burden: Indoor Chemical Exposure and Asthma, Maryland PIRG Foundation, December, 2013. http://marylandpirg.org/reports/mdp/unnecessary-burden
4. The ‘No More Tears’ Shampoo, Now With No Formaldehyde, The New York Times, January 17, 2014. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/18/business/johnson-johnson-takes-first-s...
5. Product Integrity, Walgreens, http://www.walgreens.com/topic/sr/sr_product_integrity_home.jsp
6. A toxic situation: Walmart and Target take on chemical safety, the Guardian, December, 2013, http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/walmart-target-toxic-che...
7. Walgreen-Alliance Boots deal is complete, Chicago Tribune, December 31, 2014. http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/breaking/ct-walgreen-completes-me...
8. Trouble in Toyland 2014, December 2, 2014. http://www.marylandpirg.org/sites/pirg/files/reports/MarylandPIRG_Troubl...
9. 2014 Walgreens Study, Healthy Stuff, http://www.ecocenter.org/healthy-stuff/reports/2014-walgreens-study
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