It's no secret: I hate Wal-Mart. Honestly, I have only been inside a Wal-Mart store four times in my life, including buying batteries in Colby, Kansas on a cross-country childhood vacation, and every time I leave the store, I feel disgusted with American consumerism. This company's initial practice of establishing stores in small communities to drive out "ma and pa" stores has contributed to the homogenizing of American retail. Furthermore,
Over 70% of products on Wal-Mart's shelves are made in China. The recent string of product recalls shows the dangerous and even deadly consequences of Wal-Mart's corporate bullying strategy to drive down the cost of products. Suppliers are forced to ship production to places like China where quality and labor standards are far less stringent.
Wal-Mart's race to the bottom strategy leads to more than just unsafe products - it forces suppliers to cut corners when it comes to their own workers as well (walmartwatch.com).
I don't care how green Wal-Mart attempts to be when they still sell dangerous products for children. I was shocked to learn that Wal-Mart is still selling, in some states, PVC vinyl backed baby bibs that contain lead despite a recall in Illinois. As I wrote last May,
A grandmother discovered the lead in her grandson’s bib. After hearing about the lead in children’s lunchboxes, she bought a lead test kit (similar to what we did for my daughter’s backpack). The California-based Center for Environmental Health did more tests on the bibs and found lead levels in some Wal-Mart bibs more than 16 times the legal limit for lead in paint! That’s right, 16 TIMES THE LEGAL LIMIT FOR LEAD IN PAINT! How could this be? The CEH writes, “‘These vinyl bibs pose a lead poisoning threat to infants and toddlers who are at the most vulnerable age,’ said Caroline Cox, Research Director at CEH and author of a report on lead in baby bibs released by CEH today. ‘As every parent knows, young children commonly chew and suck on their bibs, so if the bib is contaminated, children are being directly exposed to lead.’”
Of course, there are alternatives to leaded bibs. Bumkins Organic Cotton Bibs offer softness without lead (imagine that),and you don't have to worry about your child chewing on the edges or eating food that has fallen on the bib. Another alternative is to simply not shop at Wal-Mart, but to chose retailers who have consistent recall practices. According to Consumerist.com:
Children in Illinois are safer because the state bans the sale of products containing more than 600 ppm of lead. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has warned all parents that vinyl bibs may be tainted with lead, but refuses to issue a nationwide recall.
Walmart voluntarily agreed to pull the lead-ridden bibs back in May to avoid the fine-wielding ire of Illinois' Attorney General.
Mia Masten, a Chicago-based spokeswoman for Wal-Mart, said the vinyl portion of the bibs exceeded the lead levels set by Illinois for children's products. She said the company had worked with the Illinois attorney general's office to pull the items and later decided to expand the recall nationwide.
"We at Wal-Mart are committed to working ... to develop industry standards for the elimination of vinyl in children's products," Masten said.
Maybe those industry standards should have include a directive to pull recalled products from the shelf? Just a suggestion.
I am so tired of writing and reading news about toxic toys and children's products, that I think I will take a little break. Expect more positive posts next week about good things that are happening in the world of green family life. We all could use some inspiration!
Image courtesy of reclaimdemocracy.org