Julie Gunlock

Americans who assume such groups are harmless distractions might be shocked to learn what compliance with the “Mind the Store” campaign actually means. Thousands of common items would be removed from store shelves and would become hard to find. In their place will be higher priced alternatives which at best don’t work as well and spoil easily, and at worst cause an uptick in food borne illnesses, skin irritations, and other infections as food and many other products are left vulnerable to dangerous bacteria.

Sure, ultimately alternative, chemical-free products might improve in price and quality as they compete for market-share, but it’s worth asking: will manufacturers be interested in developing new products when they might be targeted by similar campaigns in the future? And how long will this overhaul take? Likely years, considering the hoops through which manufacturers have to jump to bring new products to market. Meanwhile, people will be forced to pay more to use inferior products.

That’s a fact often lost in the conversation about chemicals. Organizations vilify them, and suggest that their benefits are negligible and use is unnecessary. Yet these chemicals actually make products better, safer, more durable, longer lasting, and a lot more affordable—which is why they became so widespread in the first place.

For instance, among the chemicals the campaign wants removed are phthalates, formaldehyde, and certain flame retardants. While the anti-chemical activists will tell you those hard-to-pronounce words are just harmful additives, the truth is phthalates are added to plastics to make toys less breakable, and therefore, less harmful to children. That’s important to parents who worry their children could choke on shards of a broken plastic toy. Flame retardants, which are now common in furniture and building materials, are largely responsible for the sharp decline in household fires since the 1970s. Formaldehyde, which is used in personal care products, helps prevent bacterial growth.

Consumers who want to purchase products free of certain chemicals are able to do so since there is no shortage of alternative products already in the marketplace. Yet, consumers deserve other options too: the option to make use of the most-advanced new technologies and substances, which have typically been subject to aggressive government oversight and testing.

Consumers may not be the direct targets of the “Mind the Store” campaign, but they have a lot at stake. They should encourage stores to reject the radical environmentalists’ strong arm tactics and tell those groups to mind their own business.

Julie Gunlock

Julie Gunlock is director of the Culture of Alarmism project at the Independent Women’s Forum (www.iwf.org).