It’s Personal: Calling on Walgreens for a Safe Chemical Policy
This post was originally published at Women's Voices for the Earth
I feel really fortunate to live in the kind of community where your neighbors are a cornerstone of your life — we get together for coffee on Saturday mornings in our pj’s, we take care of each others’ pets when someone goes away to travel, and we share our family life. In the past 5 years, my two closest neighbors and I have all lost our moms to cancer. Our 3 moms grew up in different areas, had very different lives, struggled in different ways with 3 different kinds of cancer. But the bottom line is that as neighbors, we tried to help hold the pieces together as we each struggled with first taking care of our moms and then learning how to live without our moms after they passed away. There wasn’t a specific chemical spill that had exposed our moms to cancer-causing chemicals, they didn’t work together in a potentially sick building, and none of them had a family history of cancer. So how did this happen? How is it that all of us lost our moms too early in our lives? Why are cancer rates, and rates of other chronic disorders linked to toxic chemicals like learning disabilities so elevated population-wide?
That question is part of what drives me and thousands of people across the country to press for safer products and smarter laws to protect our health from toxic chemicals in every day products. Because our federal chemical safety laws are outdated and widely recognized as broken, hazardous chemicals linked to cancer and birth defects are common ingredients in toys, cosmetics, couch cushions, cookware and more. As chemical reform debates slowly move forward in Congress and in state legislatures across the country, concerned organizations and community leaders are seeking quicker advances from the nation’s largest retailers as part of the Mind the Store campaign. We’re calling on retailers like Walgreens, the nation’s largest drug store chain, to develop safe chemical policies that will address the most hazardous chemicals in the products they place on their store shelves. The good news is that Walgreens is starting to listen. Last spring, health advocates and local families held events in front of dozens of local Walgreens stores — and then kept pressing, with follow up call in days and another week of action last summer. In the wake of this on-the-ground push, Walgreens has announced that they are in the process of developing a Chemical Sustainability Program and plan to announce it this spring. Clean Water Action, CT Coalition for Environmental Justice and the MA Breast Cancer Coalition recently delivered over 135,000 petition signatures collected nationally to Walgreens stores in Hartford and Boston. Local leaders met with store managers, thanking Walgreens for taking this initial step and urging them to go the distance with the Program — to ensure that it is as comprehensive as possible. We’re hopeful that Walgreens is moving forward with their customers’ health in mind. Lula Pearl, our youngest community leader at the Boston event, is now 10 months old. If we, and Walgreens, keep our eyes on the prize, Lula Pearl will have a much better shot at a long and healthy life with her mom at her side.