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Grocery Bag in Mural

In the United States, as well as globally, women hold great power by virtue of their spending habits. It is a fact that the majority of consumer products are bought by women - including cars and electronics. At every point in the purchase decision, women make choices that can lead to a company's success or to a company's scramble to see why their products are still sitting on the shelves.

Whether we are shopping for food, cars, clothing or home goods women are beginning to seek out products that are made by companies whose values they share. We are on the hunt for products that are made in a sustainable manner, products that are not made by children, and products that do not contain toxins. Women are even beginning to question the effects of the manufacturing process on the residents of the communities and villages where the companies are located. Being privy to global information from a neverending news cycle, women know which villagers in China are suing which chemical companies for the drastic rise in cancers experienced in their communities.

To help us in making good choices, a group of health and environmental groups are launching a national campaign to prod major retailers to remove products containing chemicals of concern from their stores.

"We've seen the power of retailers to change the marketplace", says Andy Igrejas of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families Nearly four dozen other organizations, including the Breast Cancer Fund and the Union of Concerned Scientists are requesting retailers to develop a plan to phase out the use of toxic chemicals.

"The federal government isn't minding the store, so the stores need to mind the store," Igrejas says. He's calling on retailers to identify and stop selling products that contain chemicals whose exposure has been linked to health problems, including cancer, infertility, learning disabilities and behavioral problems. The 100-plus chemical list includes formaldehyde, parabens, phthalates, BPA and flame retardants.

In the meantime, women consumers need to be ever vigilant and use our wallets to make a difference!

How do you exercise your "retail power" to bring about change?


Photo: Quinn Anya

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Sheila Hollender likes to blog about the environment and health issues.