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Washington Groups Hail Macy’s Decision on Toxic Flame Retardants

(Seattle, WA) Just hours before consumers in Washington and around the country were planning to call attention to Macy’s stores sale of furniture products containing toxic flame retardant chemicals, the retailer announced it would end the practice. Activists from Earth Ministry, Arc of Washington State and Unite had planned to stand outside Macy’s stores throughout Central Washington instead hailed the Macy’s change as a victory for consumers’ and workers’ health and the environment. For weeks, groups around the country had been pressuring Macy’s on social media to make this move.

“This is an important victory for consumers, parents and kids in Washington,” said Laurie Valeriano, Executive Director of the Washington Toxics Coalition. “We now call on the Washington State Legislature to pass the Toxic-Free Kids and Families Act to stem the silent epidemic of dangerous chemicals in our homes.”

The Toxic-Free Kids and Families Act, sponsored by Rep. Kevin Van De Wege (D-Sequim) and Rep. David Taylor (R-Moxee), would ban several of the most harmful toxic flame retardants found in children’s products and furniture and prevent product makers from replacing the chemicals with equally bad or worse flame retardant chemicals.

“The Washington State Nurses Association applauds the retailers who are “saying no” to toxic flame retardants in furniture. Washington State legislators should take their lead and support banning these unnecessary chemicals that cause deleterious health effects to our most vulnerable – our children. We would all breathe easier,” said Karen Bowman, Environmental Health Specialist, WSNA

“We are thankful for Macy’s doing what’s right to protect our hard working members and their families from these unnecessary and dangerous chemicals,” said Lindsay Garner, Secretary-Treasurer of UFCW Local 367. “Better, safer worksites are a wonderful gift to receive going into the holiday season.”

Over the past two weeks, Macy’s had received thousands of e-mails from customers encouraging them to address the harmful chemicals.  Macy’s responded to Mind the Store yesterday, saying in part, “We expect that our suppliers (the manufacturers of furniture sold at Macy’s) are no longer using the chemicals in question, and we believe a majority are already in compliance… We will be instructing any remaining suppliers who are using these chemicals to cease doing so…If we do identify a vendor that is still applying the old flame retardants, we will be requiring them to cease doing so immediately.”

Macy’s is the tenth largest retailer of furniture and bedding in the U.S. and sold an estimated $1.2 billion of furniture and bedding in 2013, according to Furniture Today magazine. While not all Macy’s furniture contains toxic flame retardants, health advocates were asking Macy’s to work with its suppliers to completely phase out these unnecessary dangerous chemicals.

Washington Toxics Coalition worked with the national Mind the Store campaign to provide essential help— gathering data in Macy’s stores that showed their furniture does contain toxic flame retardants.

Numerous competing retailers like IKEA, Walmart, and Ashley have already announced that they are phasing out toxic flame retardants in furniture. Some chains like Pier 1 Imports, Rooms to Go, and Berkshire Hathaway’s furniture stores have not yet made announcements.

Research shows toxic flame retardants do not stay in the furniture. They migrate out of the products and collect in indoor dust where they enter people’s bodies by being inhaled, ingested, and touched. Some toxic flame retardants do not break down easily, and have been found to persist and travel to waterways and ecosystems virtually everywhere. Studies show that more than 90 percent of American women of childbearing age have toxic flame retardants in their bodies. In a fire, firefighters are exposed to these harmful chemicals and the highly toxic byproducts that result when they burn.

“The Arc of Washington State is grateful that Macy’s has joined Ikea, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Ashley Furniture Industries Inc. among others, recognizing the danger to the health and intellectual well-being of children and adults from toxic flame retardants. Every individual, including people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, deserve not to have this harmful chemical interference in their brains and in their bodies,” commented Diana Stadden, Policy and Advocacy Coordinator for the Arc of Washington State.

The Day of Action events were to be held in partnership with Mind the Store campaign. The national “day of action” was preceded by an online petition and a formal letter to Macy’s from the campaign.

The Rev. Steve Grumm – Retired Lutheran Pastor and Earth Ministry Board Member, said, “All faith traditions agree that we have a moral obligation to protect the most vulnerable among us – especially children like our grandson who we cannot shield from toxic flame retardants at home, school, or church. Communities of faith are outspoken on the urgent need to eliminate these dangerous chemicals from our furniture and children’s products. We applaud Macy’s for taking a significant step in the right direction; and we will continue to advocate that the WA state legislature protect all of God’s children with a strong Toxic-Free Kids and Families Act.”

The Mind the Store campaign is challenging major U.S. retailers to adopt policies to identify, restrict, and safely substitute the Hazardous 100+ chemicals in common consumer products.

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Stephanie Stohler, [email protected]

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