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Toxic chemical 'Hall of Shame' calls out major retailers
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Toxic chemical 'Hall of Shame' calls out major retailers

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Many beauty companies now offer products without "toxic" or "suspicious" chemicals, but some of these "clean" products have a dirty little secret.

A dozen major companies earned an F for failing to publicly address the growing problem of toxic chemicals that may be in the products they sell to consumers, according to the 2021 Who's Minding the Store? A Report Card on Retailer Actions to Eliminate Toxic Chemicals.

The report is a collaboration of nonprofit partner organizations, including the environmental advocacy groups Toxic-Free Future, WE ACT for Environmental Justice and Defend Our Health.

This year's Toxic Hall of Shame includes the well-known brands of Starbucks, Subway, Publix, Nordstrom, Ace Hardware, 7-Eleven, Sally Beauty and Restaurant Brands International (RBI), the parent company of Burger King, Popeyes and Tim Hortons, a popular Canadian fast-food chain.

Rounding out the list are 99 Cents Only Stores; Sobeys and Metro, which are the second and third largest food retailers in Canada; and Alimentation Couche-Tard, which operates Circle K and Couche-Tard convenience stores in the United States, Canada and more than a dozen other countries worldwide.


Starbucks, Subway and Burger King are among retailers earning an F in the 2021 report card on retailer actions to eliminate toxic chemicals.

"We score companies on a curve," said report coauthor and Mind the Store campaign director Mike Schade.

"All a company has to do to break out of an F is to get more than 15 points, and companies can earn up to 164 possible points. For example, Nordstrom earned 13 points while Target earned 105 points," Schade said.

All but two of the retailers in the so-called Toxic Hall of Shame "are repeat offenders. They deserve special dishonorable mention for having earned an F grade across multiple years of grading," the report stated.

Four of the companies failed to score a single point for public actions to adopt safer chemical policies, the report card said. Those companies were the 99 Cents Only Stores, Publix, Metro and Sally Beauty.

"This year we gave companies about two months to review and respond to their draft scores. We reached out to every retailer multiple times. We also delayed the grading process given the pandemic, to give companies additional time this year to make progress," Schade said.

"There is really no excuse for these retail laggards to earn a failing grade," said report co-author and Defend Our Health executive director Mike Belliveau in a statement.

CNN reached out several times via email and phone to the 12 companies that received an F grade, but only heard back from two.

Metro communications manager Stephanie Bonk told CNN: "We are unaware of this report and do not wish to comment."

The parent company of Burger King, RBI, responded that existing product specifications require that "all approved plastic toys and promotional drink wear not contain bisphenol A ("BPAs"), and prohibit the use of perfluorooctanoic acid ("PFOAs") within our approved paper and packaging products."

RBI added: "We have very specific guidelines around the approved products that are used in our restaurants in order to ensure food safety. In the United States, this means ensuring our product and packaging specifications are compliant with FDA standards."

In response, Schade told CNN: "The US Food and Drug Administration and several states banned BPA in some infant and children's products many years ago, but Burger King did not disclose action on BPA until fall 2019, which we acknowledged last year."

When it comes to PFOAs, RBI's actions "do not even go beyond regulatory compliance, as FDA already revoked the use of this chemical in food packaging. They are just saying they comply with the law," he said.

5th annual toxic chemical report card

In its fifth year, the Mind the Store campaign examines and grades the practices of 50 retail chains with more than 200,000 stores combined in the United States and Canada on their efforts to reduce chemicals known to harm human health.

This year's grades were tallied on a rubric of 13 actions, including whether the company had publicly committed to a safer chemicals policy; required suppliers to document use of chemicals; kept suppliers accountable; and had reduced or eliminated chemicals or plastics of environmental and health concern within the last three years.

Phthalates, found in hundreds of auto, home, food and personal care items, have been linked to long-lasting neurodevelopmental harm in fetuses, infants and children.

These PFAS substances — perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl chemicals — are used to make carpeting, clothing, furniture and food packaging resistant to stains, water and grease damage.

Called "forever" chemicals because they do not degrade in the environment, PFAS are so widespread that levels have been detected in the blood of 97% of Americans, according to a 2015 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


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