Wal-Mart, the largest retailer in the world, has announced that it will require its suppliers to phase out ten “hazardous” chemicals from personal care and cosmetics products.
Andrea Thomas, Wal-Mart’s senior VP of sustainability, declined to identify all of the 10 chemicals being phased out in a conference call with the media, but pointed out that they were being removed because of their environmental impact.
Experts believe that the chemicals the retailer has pledged to eliminate include the preservatives phthalates and triclosan.
The announcement comes in the wake of Johnson & Johnson pledging to eliminate phthalates, triclosan, formaldehydes and parabens from its personal care products in 2012, as well as Proctor & Gamble’s announcement this month that it would phase out phthalates and triclosan.
Wal-Mart said in a statement: "The objective of this policy is to help ensure that household cleaning, personal care, beauty and cosmetic products sold by Wal-Mart will minimize hazards to people or the environment."
Wal-Mart’s move has been celebrated by environmental groups, with Mark Rossi, co-director of Clean Production Action, commenting: “Wal-Mart's policy signals a new era of going beyond regulatory compliance to reduce the use of hazardous chemicals."
“Companies like Wal-Mart are realizing that they need to be proactive instead of reactive to the rapidly increasing consumer demand for safer products.”
Several preservative chemicals have been controversial in cosmetics in recent years for their supposed environmental and health impacts.
Some animal studies have shown that trisoclan may cause infertility, early puberty and hormone-related problems. The cosmetics preservative is currently under review by the FDA.
However, Proctor and Gamble have denied that some of the products they have eliminated are hazardous to health, stating: “DEP has been thoroughly studied and found to be safe. But we understand that DEP can get mistakenly linked to other phthalates in the public discussion because of its name.”
“So we have been working [...] to eliminate DEP from the fragrances used in our products. We are 70% of the way there....”