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Gina Solomon’s Blog

Clearing the Air: Walgreens Pulls Worrisome Air Fresheners from the Shelves

Gina Solomon

Posted September 20, 2007

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It was nice to wake up to some good news this morning. Walgreens took a look at our test results that showed diethyl phthalate (DEP) in some of their air freshener products, and moved fast to do the right thing. They pulled the worrisome products from their shelves, commissioned additional tests to cross-check our results and look at their product line, and pledged to reformulate the products to get rid of unnecessary phthalates. Kudos to Walgreens for helping to clear the air.

The action from Walgreens is especially important because their products had some of the highest levels of phthalate. But we're still hoping that other companies will take a careful look at their product lines and do what they can to eliminate worrisome chemicals and also to inform consumers. We are also willing to look at independent testing data from the companies and update our website so that consumers have up-do-date information on these products.

This isn't really just about air fresheners, you know. The real issue here is that hazardous chemicals and endocrine disruptors can be in a wide range of consumer products, and the government has little authority or inclination to do anything about it. I find it distressing when patients or friends ask me about whether it's "safe" to use a certain product during pregnancy, or when they have a child in the home, and I have to respond "I have no idea". That's because most consumer products don't have to list ingredients, or even get tested for safety.

Phthalates are a particular concern because there's evidence that current exposure levels in the general population may not be safe. Research studies have found that some people have more phthalates in their bodies than others - maybe because of the consumer products they use in their home - and those people are more likely to have abnormalities in their sperm DNA, or have babies with altered hormone levels, or have baby boys with subtle feminizing changes in their reproductive tract. That's not good, and is all the more reason why it's a good idea to look for ways to reduce the sum total of our exposure to these chemicals.

Air fresheners aren't the only source of phthalates out there. They may not be the biggest source of phthalates out there. But these problems have a way of adding up, so any reduction is a good thing in the big health equation.

See ya later, I'm off to pick a few things up at Walgreens!

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