Why I Asked Safeway to Mind the Store

BY ON April 12, 2013

Two women in standing outside of a safeway store with potted plants in the background

Yesterday I took the fight for safer chemicals to the streets. Well, not exactly to the streets. I took it to the Safeway store in Silver Spring, Maryland, with my friend Laura MacCleery, of the blog Laura’s Rules.

That’s because we joined with a national campaign called Mind the Store. We are asking the nation’s top retailers to remove from their shelves the Hazardous 100+–over one hundred chemicals linked to a wide range of health issues, including hormone disruption, cancer, birth defects, and reproductive damage.

These chemicals, identified by the Environmental Protection Agency, the European Chemicals Agency, and several state health agencies, and compiled by national coalition (and Moms Clean Air Force partner) Safer Chemicals Healthy Families, can be found in ordinary consumer products. And I mean ordinary. Things like furniture, cleaning products, food cans, toys, bed linens, cookware, and particle board, to name a few.

Given the potential of these Hazardous 100+ chemicals to cause serious health problems, I’d rather not have my children breathe, ingest, spread on their skin, or otherwise be exposed to them, thank you very much. I’m guessing you feel the same way about your own children. But it’s surprisingly difficult to keep the Hazardous 100+ out of our children’s bodies.

That’s because of an outdated federal law that (very weakly) regulates chemicals in consumer products. The law is so weak that chemicals are not tested for human health hazards before being allowed on the market, and chemical manufacturers may keep secret, even from government regulators, the majority of the ingredients in their chemical formulations.

The way things currently stand, if I want to avoid having my children exposed to potentially toxic chemicals, I have to launch a major research project when I go to the store. It would be a pretty reasonable task, actually, if I had a doctorate in toxicology. But I don’t.

one woman standing in a grocery aisle

I think it’s time to take this ridiculous burden off the shoulders of concerned moms and dads, and place it back where it belongs: on the manufacturers of our products.

Among other things, it’s just too much information, and too many products, for any regular mom to keep track of. You should have seen Laura and me, both moms of young children, in the aisles of our local Safeway yesterday. We did find some products that contain the Hazardous 100+, such as Dial’s Hello Kitty hand sanitizer, with triclosan, and several body lotions with parabens. But there were many more products whose ingredients we didn’t understand or couldn’t find listed at all. We felt lost in a thicket of chemical names, tiny fonts on tiny labels, and terms we didn’t understand. Not to mention scores of products with no labeling information whatsoever.

one woman standing in a grocery aisle holding a bottle of detergent and reading its label

It was pretty much an on-the-ground affirmation of the fact that consumers can’t shop their way around this problem. There’s so much information we just don’t have, and the information we do have is difficult to navigate. That’s why it’s time for retailers to get tough on toxic chemicals.

We met with store manager David, told him about our concerns, and delivered a letter asking Safeway to remove the Hazardous 100+ from its shelves. He was as nice as could be, and listened carefully to our concerns. He even let us take this photo of him receiving the letter from Laura.

Thanks, David, for receiving our letter and hearing us out. We can’t wait to hear back from Safeway about its plans to address toxic chemicals. As you’ll learn from Lori at Groovy Green Living, Katy at Non-Toxic Kids, Flour Sack Mama, and others, awesome moms around the country are delivering similar letters to all of the nation’s top 10 retailers: Safeway, Walmart, Target, Best Buy, CostCo, CVS, Kroger’s, Lowes, Home Depot, and Walgreens. We’re asking them to Mind the Store by taking the Hazardous 100+ off their shelves.

one woman standing with a safeway store manager inside the store

It’s a very exciting time in the fight for safer chemicals. Just this week, Senator Lautenberg introduced the Safe Chemicals Act, which would fix many of the problems in the current chemical law. We will continue to ask Congress to pass the Safe Chemicals Act.

If past behavior is any indication of future performance, the chemical industry is getting ready to do a lot of whispering in the ears of Senators. Let’s make sure moms’ voices come in loud and clear.


TOPICS: Activism, Cancer, Clean Air Rules and Regulations, Food, Indoor Air Pollution, Motherhood, Pollution, Toxics

  • Great job, Molly! Thank you for speaking up to protect families everywhere.

  • Lindsay Dahl

    This is so awesome, thanks to you and Laura for being such great role models. It’s so easy to chat with the manager when you’re in the store, glad to see he was really friendly and receptive. I think the retailers can help us lead the way to safer chemicals. YOU RULE!

  • Lori Alper

    Looks as though you had a great visit to Safeway. Hopefully all ten of these retailers will hear our ask and make a plan to phase out these toxic chemicals. If they take the lead more retailers are sure to follow. Thanks for all you do to keep our families safe Molly!

  • What a great story to tell ! Thanks Molly !

  • Honeycomb

    Good blog and impressive undertaking. The decision to remove so many products (I’m assuming there are many with one or more of the bad 100) will be taken by senior management. To get its attention at any of these chains, there probably will have to be the threat of boycott against the stores (rather than just the products), and perhaps actual boycotts. Another way to get senior management attention is through divestment and boycott of their equity, traded on the stock markets. The threat of such a movement would invite quick response if it was a credible threat. Using these two techniques in tandem would hurry along the process. Great pix. If I were POTUS I’d remark that these women are the best looking agitators I’ve seen. Honeycomb.

    • dominique

      hilarious re POTUS. and excellent point. can’t we find the ten top selling items containing the worst ingredients, and start a boycott?

  • Thanks Molly! I’ve shopped at that Safeway and agree – it’s difficult to know if there are potentially harmful chemicals in many of the products. With your help, hopefully that will change!

  • Sabrina

    Awesome Work!!!

  • Olivia

    Hi Molly! Thank you and Laura for visiting Safeway and having a chance to deliver the letter and speak to the manager. I am so glad he listened and is going to help guide Safeway in the right direction!