Has the Toxic Tide Turned This Holiday Season?

Shopping season is officially upon us. Even if your family is anti-consumerism, some time between Black Friday and 2014, you might find yourself in a big store buying presents. And you might find yourself† wondering about the safety of these presentsówhat kinds of toxic chemicals might they contain? Here’s some good news: There has been a noticeable trend in major retailers turning away from the use of certain chemicals of concern in their products. In the last few months, not one, not two, but†three different consumer product powerhouses vowed to reduce the toxic load on their store shelves.

Let’s recap.

In August,†Proctor & Gamble quietly announced via its website that it intends to phase out its use of endocrine-disrupting†phthalates as well as the hazardous antibacterial agent†triclosan. Then in September, retail giant†Wal-Mart said it would require suppliers to disclose all the ingredients used in the products it sells and will target 10 high-priority chemical hazards for action. This was followed by an announcement from†Target that it will begin rating products for sustainability and will heavily penalize those containing any toxins found on certain independent regulatory lists.

Fantastic news across the board, right? Well, hang on a minute. While these moves sound fantastic and are drawing a lot of positive press, there are a lot of key details still missing.

Wal-Mart, for example, has yet to reveal the 10 chemicals on its priority list. The company also hasn’t explained what exactly it means when it says it will subject these toxins to “continuous reduction, restriction, and elimination.” At†Target, the shopping public won’t see the new product ratings; these will be internal. So far the company has said only that these scores “will inform Target’s merchandising and product-placement decisions.” Even P&G’s phase-outs, which at least are specific and verifiable, are less than they seemóby the company’s own admission; its current use of triclosan and a single phthalate is already negligible.

So while we at Healthy Child Healthy World loudly applaud all these companies for joining the urgent conversation about toxic chemicals found in everyday consumer products, we’re not breaking out the champagne just yet. It remains to be seen if these moves mark a legitimate shift toward concrete sustainability or are simply feel-good PR moves that ultimately will mean little or nothing. As we think about the toxic toys so many kids will play with this holiday season, we certainly hope it’s the former. Still, we’re putting more transparency on our holiday wish list.



Fi T.
Past Member 4 years ago

Can there be something positive?

Amanda M.
Amanda M4 years ago

I can't even THINK about what I want for Christmas this year due to my husband's being laid off from his good-paying job as a plumber's apprentice and his having to go back to security work at a lousy $8.55 an hour due to his not being able to find a job as an HVAC apprentice. We've got the kids covered, but since we can't even afford my NEEDS (such as a new watchband to replace the one that's being held together with Loc-Tite and some hand-sewing or summer pajamas to replace the two pairs that are literally falling apart at the seams), I just can't focus on "wants" that almost always get squashed as soon as they pop into my head for financial reasons and the need to put my kids and husband first based on that priority.

My kids don't want junky fad toys anyway, and thank the Goddess for that!

Azaima A.
Azaima A4 years ago

eliminate the toxics by giving time and attention instead of material objects

PrimaSICK B.
PrimaAWAY B4 years ago


Roxana Saez
Roxana Saez4 years ago


Christie C.
Christie C4 years ago

Thank you for this timely article. I'd like to add that it can be easier than you think to navigate the toxic marketplace as a consumer- ignore the marketing. It's that simple.

If the product has ingredients, read the list. If you can't visualize what an ingredient looks like or how it is made, don't buy it. Something safe like cocoa butter is a recognizable thing, but something toxic like cocamide MEA is not. Go home and look up the weird ingredients before you buy. Educate yourself and don't take the company's word for anything.

If the product doesn't have an ingredient list, use common sense. Look for the country of origin and examine what the product is made out of. Something made in a third-world nation is probably not good for you or the environment.

Danuta Watola
Danuta W4 years ago

Thanks for sharing this

S B.
Sherri B4 years ago

We must ALWAYS read labels to know what we are getting for ourselves, which is why product labelling is so important - demand food labelling. No GMO's & toxins.

Ron B.
Ron B4 years ago

I wouldn't take the claims of either Big Brother or big corporations at face value without first trying to verify them. We've been burned too many times before by both sources.

Cathleen K.
Cathleen K4 years ago

If Wal Mart and Target actually told the big producers to leave certain chemicals out of products or stay out of their stores, those chemicals would be gone tomorrow. Don't hold your breath, however.