Retailers meet customer demands by providing products made with safer chemicals

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Chemicals are in everything we use; from the food we eat to the car seats we put our children in. Some families in the Carolinas and across the country are becoming more cognizant of what makes up the products they use every day.

Parents like Meghan Lowery have concerns over potential adverse outcomes from chemicals used in some products.

For example, chemicals known as PFAS are often found in food packaging, commercial household products, electronics and drinking water. According to the EPA, there is evidence that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse human health effects like increased cholesterol levels, thyroid hormone disruption, and cancer.

“The more I read and studied and asked questions I realized that not everything out there is good for us,” Lowery said.

Lowery started researching ingredients used in the food she eats and products she uses about seven years ago.

“I had a sudden onset of chronic inflammation,” Lowery said. “That lead me to a lifestyle change. It prompted me to change the type of foods I was eating and products I use to limit chemical exposure to my body.”

Watching out for toxic ingredients

She’s still unsure what was causing the inflammation, but says symptoms subsided after she became more selective in what she ingested.

“You are what you eat. I believe there’s a lot of truth to that,” Lowery said. “And your skin is your biggest organ too. What you put on your skin, what you breath, all of that matters.”

Now you can find her in the grocery store reading ingredient labels, googling what ingredients mean, and searching for safe products to use through various apps. She says she tries to use as much locally sourced products as she can so she can trace where they came from.

The Environmental Protection Agency monitors what chemicals manufacturers use in products through reporting, record-keeping, testing requirements, and restrictions related to chemical substances and mixtures. But that doesn’t mean the EPA tests every chemical before it’s used in commercial products.

For more information on what the EPA regulates through Toxic Substances Control Act, click here.

“People often think the federal government is testing and approving all chemicals before they go on the market and that is not the case,” Senior Fellow of NC Child Tom Vitaglione said.

Vitaglione works for the North Carolina-based child advocacy organization known as NC Child. NC Child works on policy development, research, and any efforts that help children and families in North Carolina.

“We want parents to be alert and concerned and do whatever they can to reduce exposures for their children, but to also understand that you can’t do everything so don’t panic about it,” Vitaglione said.

NC Child recommended these tips for parents concerned with chemical exposure:

  • Buy organic food
  • Wash food thoroughly
  • Minimize packaged foods
  • Vacuum dust build up regularly
  • Support companies that prioritize sustainability

“The dust in our house usually winds up collecting all of the chemicals that fall off and leach out of all of our products and so vacuuming the house very frequently will reduce exposure, particularly for little ones who are crawling on the floor,” Vitaglione said.

The Environmental Protection Agency recommends products that have been certified by its Safer Choice Program. The program finds products that perform and are safer for human health and the environment. For more information, click here.

Safer Chemicals, Health Families is an organization that works on chemical policy, according to its website.

The organization produces an annual ‘Mind the Store’ report which grades major retailers on its use of safer chemicals. You can read the full report here.

Among the most improved companies in the report are two North Carolina based retailers: Lowe’s and Ahold Delhaize, which owns Food Lion.

Manager of External Communications for Food Lion Matt Harakal told WBTV as part of several changes to become more sustainable, Food Lion’s parent company is removing priority chemicals from brands sold exclusively at Food Lion like Nature’s Promise, Taste of Inspirations, and Food Lion’s brand.

“We understand they’re concerned about the products that they ingest, and we’re committed to operating in a sustainable manner and this is just one way that we’re doing that,” Harakal said.

The priority chemicals Food Lion is removing from its private brand products include per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), Bisphenol A (BPAs) and Phthalates.

As part of the changes made under the company’s sustainability efforts, Harakal says chemicals used in its private brand products can soon be found on the ingredients label.

“That includes the ingredient information that’s used in the packaging itself, as well as the private item,” Harakal said.

For more information on changes to Food Lion products, click here.

A spokesperson for Lowe’s shared the following link with information on the company’s sustainability report.

Page 15 of the report lists some of the changes the company is making to move toward safer chemicals.

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