Conservation Minnesota

Baby Retailers – Help Parents Take the Worry out of Shopping

More and more parents are looking for baby products that don’t contain chemicals of concern. Whether you’re shopping for your kids, grandkids, nieces/nephews or friends’ kids, consumers want to assure the products that end up in the nursery are the safest possible. They’re worried about BPA in plastic, flame retardants in foam, phthalates in toys and the list goes on – parabens, 1,4-dioxane, formaldehyde, cadmium. Shopping can sometimes be overwhelming!

Baby retailers like buybuy BABY and Babies “R” Us could help consumers take the worry out of shopping for children. So far both retailers are falling short on managing chemicals in their products, according to a new report, Who’s Minding the Store? — A Report Card on Retailer Actions to Eliminate Toxic Chemicals. The Report Card rated thirty leading U.S. retailers on their chemical policies. Evaluation criteria included whether or not the retailer had a corporate chemical policy and if it included key pieces such as management oversight, supplier ingredient disclosure, reduction or elimination of chemicals of high concern, policies on safer alternatives, use of third party standards and whether or not the company discloses product ingredients and lets consumers know about their policies.

Buybuy BABY ranked 12th among 30 retailers with a score of D+ and Babies “R” US was ranked 22nd with a score of F on the report card. Buybuy BABY received a score of 35 out of a possible 135 points, because they have adopted a Restricted Substances List (RSL) and policies on eliminating BPA in food contact products, triclosan in personal care products, some flame retardants, and phthalates and other chemicals of concern in baby products. They also adopted a list of chemicals of concern in the manufacturing process. However, with a score of D+ there is lots of room for improvement. Buybuy BABY and their parent company Bed Bath & Beyond should adopt a comprehensive chemical policy and make it public, including prioritizing chemicals of concern in specific product categories such as personal care, textiles, food contact materials and others. They should also set specific timelines for elimination of chemicals in priority product categories and perform a Chemical Footprint assessment to assure continuous improvement in eliminating chemicals.

Babies “R” Us received a score of 5 out of 135 points, because they promote natural and organic products and products free of certain chemicals such as 1,4-dioxane, parabens and phthalates. They also provide their vendors with lists of chemicals of concern in products, However, they have no corporate RSL and no way to verify vendor claims on product ingredients. Babies “R” Us and their parent company Toys “R” Us can significantly improve their score and deliver safer products for their customers by adopting and making public a corporate-wide chemical policy that includes a RSL, identified chemicals of concern in priority product categories and goals and timelines for elimination of chemicals of concern. They should also perform a Chemical Footprint assessment to assure continuous improvement in eliminating chemicals.

Babies “R” Us and buybuy BABY can take a cue from retailer leaders such as Target and Wal-Mart, that scored B+ and A- respectively. Target’s policy is framed around a Sustainable Product Index, which focuses on elimination of chemicals of concern in baby care and other products, including specific chemical reduction goals for high priority hazardous chemicals like flame retardants, phthalates, parabens, perfluorinated chemicals and formaldehyde. Target has also adopted an ambitious goal of complete ingredient transparency, including fragrance ingredients, by 2020 for baby care and other products.  Wal-mart’s policy  includes goals for chemical reductions in 90,000 products from 700 vendors, including infant products and sustainable packaging. Wal-Mart uses the Chemical Footprint to measure progress and since 2014 has reduced the use of high priority chemicals by 96%.

Both Target and Wal-Mart were among the seven highest scorers in addition to Apple, CVS Health, IKEA, Whole Foods Market, and Best Buy, all with scores of B or higher. While one-third of major retailers are leaders, with scores of C or higher, two-thirds are seriously lagging behind. The average score for the thirty retailers was a D+ and nine retailers scored an F, including Toys “R” Us/Babies “R” Us, so there is need for significant improvement.

Babies “R” Us and buybuy BABY sell products for the most vulnerable among us, tiny babies and toddlers that breath in chemicals, consume them in food and through chewing on toys, and absorb them into their skin when bathing, sleeping and wearing products. The Getting Ready for Baby  campaign is calling on Babies “R” Us and buybuy BABY to help parents and other customers protect their love ones from unnecessary exposure to chemicals by adopting public-facing policies to eliminate the worst chemicals from the products they sell.

Babies “R” Us and buybuy BABY  – Help us take the worry out of shopping!

About Kathleen Schuler

Kathleen Schuler
Kathleen Schuler manages the Healthy Kids and Families program. With degrees in sociology and public health, Kathleen is perfectly situated to serve as the Co-Director of the Healthy Legacy coalition, which is a statewide network of advocacy organizations working to eliminate toxic chemicals from common consumer products.
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