Skip to main content

Open letter to retailers: Give moms a break

Dear Retailers,

On behalf of moms across the country, we’re asking for a Mother’s Day gift that can’t be wrapped up in foil and a bow, that won’t be delivered in a vase, but instead will come directly from your corporate headquarters. This Mother’s Day, we are asking your company to “Mind the Store” and take the lead in moving the market away from toxic chemicals most dangerous to the health of our kids.

A recently released report shows that 5,000 children’s products contain some toxic chemicals, adding to the pile of confusing and depressing news for moms about dangerous chemicals in our homes. The report listed products like a kid’s party hat
containing arsenic, car seats with dangerous flame retardants, baby dolls containing BPA, and other dangerous chemicals in everything from our kids’ footwear to food packaging to the sheets on their beds and the walls of their homes.

For Mother’s Day, in a world with so much to worry about, we are asking you for the gift of just a little peace of mind.

Specifically, we are asking you to work with your suppliers and move away from the “Hazardous 100+” list of chemicals. The “Hazardous 100+” are those chemicals regularly used in American products that are linked to health effects like cancer, asthma, hormone disruption, and developmental disabilities—just to name a few.

Need an example? How about formaldehyde. This chemical has been shown for years to cause cancer, yet it is still used in building materials, cosmetics, dozens of household products, even clothing! Would you wrap your child in a formaldehyde-treated bed sheet? I sure wouldn’t. But as a consumer it’s hard for me to know which products are safe.

There are nearly 80,000 chemicals in use in our country today. Very few have been tested for safety, or for adverse effects on human health. That’s exactly why we need a new, common-sense federal chemical policy to protect America’s kids. The Hazardous 100+ have been reviewed, and they are bad for all of us, especially children. Please require your suppliers to phase out the use of these dangerous chemicals.

big sister

As a busy mom with two kids under three, my time is limited. Going to the store with one or both of my kids is a challenge, even when they are on their best behavior. When my two year-old is hungry and my infant is overtired, it’s a major accomplishment just to make it to the checkout line. It’s not realistic to think I—or any other busy mother—can sort out which products contain chemicals that put my kids at risk while I’m busy caring for them.

Worse yet, even if was able to bring along my family’s pediatrician—or recruit a trained chemist—we still wouldn’t be able to sort out whether the couch cushions in your store contain dangerous flame retardants, or whether the can lids you sell contain BPA, or whether the tiny dolls my daughter loves contain dangerous phthalates.

It’s a big problem and we think retailers have a responsibility to be a part of the solution.

As just one mom—even one of millions of frustrated moms and dads—I don’t have the power to do what you, America’s largest retailers, can do. You have the power to change the contents of these consumer products immediately. This Mother’s Day, as mothers and fathers and grandparents and aunts and uncles yourselves, we are asking you to step up. With your great power comes great responsibility. Please accept it.

I care about this issue because I’m a fed-up mom. But I’ve also had the unique experience of working as a state legislator, passing laws attempting to limit toxic chemicals in kids’ products. I had the honor of serving as Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives before my wonderful kids arrived. I worked passionately to pass regulations to limit chemicals linked to health problems, because our federal laws on toxic chemicals are broken.

But look, we don’t need to wait for Congress to act to do our own part. Parents and consumers are educating themselves—using what little data the industry makes available—and making responsible choices where possible. It’s time for retailers like you to do the same: use the power of the market to make a positive change for your consumers. Change the game in a way that we moms—even millions of us—cannot do ourselves.

Parents recently visited all of your stores to ask you to join this campaign. Moms in New Jersey, Tennessee, Michigan, Florida and Ohio and many more states went to your stores and talked to your managers and clerks and customer service professionals. This kind of involvement from moms will only increase. We learned that your employees are respectful and concerned, and like us, they believe that we should be protecting the health of our kids and families.

Our kids need this. We need this. Only you—America’s biggest retailers—can make it happen. This Mother’s Day, I hope you will.


Hannah Pingree and thousands of moms across the country