Allergy & Air on December 21, 2016 0 Comments The season of giving is upon us. And as the busiest time of year in the retail world rolls in, it is important for consumers to consider the environmental and health ethics of the companies that supply goods and products. As research groups continue to conduct studies, more and more evidence has emerged about the harmful effects of products made with certain chemicals. These chemicals are virtually invisible, and it is all too easy to forget about them. Their effects, however, could have serious repercussions for consumers’ health, as well as the environment. Before you embark on your holiday shopping, be sure to learn more about which companies have taken a stand against harmful products and which have not yet made these necessary improvements. Is formaldehyde hiding in your home? Mindful Products Mindfulness in the home is a movement that has been sweeping the nation. The goal is overall wellness and safety, and entails taking a look at what is being brought into your home. Because most of the belongings in the home have been purchased through a retailer, it seems fitting that the campaign slogan “Mind the Store” exists. It challenges shoppers to consider how they are spending their money and consequently what practices are being encouraged. It is an effort to promote the health of the consumer and the health of the environment. Consumerism, in general, is often lamented because of its negative impact. The creation of thousands of different products means harmful side effects for the environment in the form of pollution and toxic chemical waste. Products that seem harmless enough to bring into the home may have more harmful properties than most people are even aware of. Companies Take a Stand Due to the growing concerns of how some of these chemicals are affecting our health, some companies are starting to take a stand by eliminating or minimizing the products that contain them. One company that has taken a stand for this mindfulness initiative is Macy’s. Formerly, some of the store’s furniture products contained toxic flame retardant chemicals. The chain has recently announced that it will no longer be using these chemicals in production. This decision had been highly suggested by emails from thousands of customers for the weeks leading up to their announcement. Other retailers, such as Walmart, IKEA, and Ashley have followed suit and announced that they have also started to phase out the use of toxic flame retardants in furniture. Problematic Products You may not have realized that for years, most of the couches and upholstered furniture in the country have contained extremely high levels of these toxic flame retardant chemicals. This has been an issue since 1975. Most furniture foam is full of chemicals that meet the standards of a California technical bulletin, otherwise known as TB117. However, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has noted that these chemicals are not actually necessary to create fire safe furniture. Since then, the California flammability standard has been revised to ensure a fire standard that does not call for the use of toxic chemicals. While this is an important step, it does not forbid the use of these chemicals altogether, so they can still be legally used in furniture foam. There are several problems with the use of toxic flame retardants in products. First of all, if the products are used daily, as most couches are, the chemicals do not actually stay in the furniture. Instead, they seep out of the products and collect in the indoor air where they are inhaled, ingested, and touched. These chemicals do not break up easily and can persist in waterways and travel to other ecosystems. Studies have proven that over 90% of American women of childbearing age have harmful chemicals in their bodies. Those that are most highly exposed have consistently reported lower IQ scores. A generation of children with lower IQs means a lower lifetime economic productively. Therefore the effort of these major retailers to remove the use of toxic chemicals in their products is not only a stand for our overall health, but also for the economy. Home Depot Improvements The Mind the Store campaign is an important effort, as it continues to challenge major U.S. retailers to stop using the 100+ chemicals that can be found in common consumer products. There have been some more victories for the campaign to support consumer and environmental health. The world’s largest home improvement retailer, Home Depot, has announced that they have phased out adding phthalates in their flooring completely. Phthalates are the chemicals used in vinyl flooring. Luckily, the majority of Home Depot’s flooring did not previously contain the harmful product, and only about 15% of their vinyl floors were affected by this alteration. Phthalates serve the purpose of plasticizing, which means that they can make products more flexible. However, they are potentially quite dangerous as there is growing evidence that the chemicals can have harmful effects in reproductive and developmental problems, especially in male babies. Some of the ortho-phthalates used in the flooring has also been linked to liver tumors in animals; however, the effect on humans is yet unknown. The Choice is Yours Harmful chemicals are not only found in furniture and flooring; in fact, they can be found in child care items and toys. Groups such as HealthyStuff are making it their mission to get to the core of these toxins that can be found in every day products. Although the knowledge about these harmful ingredients can seem overwhelming, this is a scenario where the more you know, the better and safer you can be. Fortunately, these groups have had a major impact on product suppliers and there seems to be a trend of companies becoming more and more mindful of what they are selling. Hopefully this will mean an increase in the monitoring and regulation of chemical hazards in consumer products. Consumers have a right to innovative and mindful options. Without proper information, it is difficult to know which products could potentially have harmful effects on your home and the environment. As you are planning your holiday shopping and continuous shopping throughout the year, be sure to look into the companies you support and see whether or not they are actually supporting you in return before you buy from them.