Walmart to phase out 10 chemicals in consumer products



Walmart yesterday announced a plan to phase out 10 hazardous chemicals in cleaning, personal-care, and cosmetic products sold at the store, although the company did not disclose the specific chemicals. The initiative, part of a broader sustainability push, will be launched in January 2014, when the company will begin monitoring progress on reduction and elimination of the 10 chemicals. Walmart is the world’s largest consumer retailer.


The initiative also includes ingredient disclosure for Walmart’s suppliers, which include many of the largest personal-care goods and chemicals manufacturers. Suppliers must provide online ingredient disclosure for products sold at Walmart starting in January 2015, the retailer says. In January 2016, Walmart will begin publicly reporting the progress of eliminating and reducing the 10 chemicals, and, in January 2018, suppliers must begin disclosing the chemicals on packaging.


Environmental groups have applauded Walmart's program. “[Thursday's] announcement is yet another indication that consumers, advocates, and business are working together to fill the void left by Washington’s inaction on chemical safety,” says Sarah Vogel, director/environmental health at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF; New York). EDF has worked with Walmart to develop the list of chemicals, EDF says, which were chosen based on assessments of hazard and availability of safe alternatives. Walmart says it will “regularly review” the list to determine if new chemicals should be included.

ACC says "many of our members have been talking with Walmart about issues related to chemical safety, product performance, innovation and the significant amount of regulatory oversight of home and personal care products." The group adds that "assessing product safety is more than just noting the presence of a chemical substance in a formulation. It must also include considerations of product use, user exposure to the chemical in the product, and the functionality of the chemical in the formulation, as well as the unintended consequences of the removal of a chemical from a product."


Walmart also says it will apply some of its private-brand cleaning products for inclusion in EPA’s Design for the Environment labeling program, which commends safe and environmentally friendly consumer products. The retailer will identify products that can be included in the program in starting in January of next year.


Walmart has periodically rolled out plans to phase out certain chemicals for several years. In 2011, it said it would phase out some flame retardants. In 2006, it targeted the pesticides propoxur and permethrin, as well as nonylphenol ethoxylates in cleaning products. At the time, Walmart said it would identify an additional 17 chemicals of concern; however, the company eventually backtracked on that policy.