Groups Warn that Toys R Us' Broken Promises May Be Toxic for Kids
NEW YORK, July 22 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Today the Teamsters Union, the Center for Health, Environment & Justice, Clean New York, WEACT for Environmental Justice, concerned parents, students and consumer activists protested toxic PVC plastic used in toys at the Toys R Us flagship store in Times Square.
The demonstrators asked Toys R Us to "end the toxic toy story" by labeling PVC presence on all toys and agreeing to a complete phase-out of the poison plastic with a verifiable deadline. Speakers highlighted Toys R Us' failure to remove toys containing PVC, a plastic harmful to children's health, from the toy giant's shelves.
At the protest, Toys R Us customers were offered free live toy testing to demonstrate the presence of PVC in toys purchased from the store. Demonstrators demanding an end to the "Toxic Toy Story" also distributed a comic strip and balloons detailing the harmful effects of the poison plastic contained in Toy Story 3 toys being sold at Toys R Us. A delegation attempted to return a "Toxic Toy Box" full of PVC-laced toys to the flagship Toys R Us store.
Toys R Us, a portfolio company of the private equity firm Kohlberg Kravitz & Roberts Co. (KKR), has announced an initial public offering. In an effort to protect children and advocate for changes at Toys R Us, the Teamsters Office of Consumer Affairs and the Center for Health, Environment & Justice announced the commissioning of a report for Congress. The report will focus on Toys R Us' Toy Safety Policy and Practices, with a concentration on its failure to phase out PVC.
The report commission will be chaired by Professor Peter Orris, Director of the Occupational Health and Safety Institute (OHSI) at the School of Public Health at the University of Illinois, Chicago and Director of the Global Toxics Program. Professor Orris is one of the leading authorities on toxic exposure in America.
"How can investors back a company that disregards the health of our kids and communities?" said Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa. "This is just the beginning. As long as KKR's Toys R Us fails to ignore the welfare of American consumers and their children, we will keep taking action to inform the public and demand legislative action."
Independent product testing by the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor, Mich. has confirmed that Toys R Us is selling Toy Story 3 merchandise made with PVC. Products that tested positive include the Defender Buzz Lightyear figure, Bucket O' Soldiers, and Buzz and Woody figurines, among others.
"In 2008, Toys R Us agreed to reduce the sale of PVC toys and offer more PVC-free products after strong consumer pressure. Sadly, they have clearly not kept their word," said Mike Schade of the Center for Health, Environment & Justice.
"This is unconscionable," said Bobbi Chase Wilding of Clean New York, and a mother of two. "As a parent, it's hard enough to protect our kids from obvious hazards. But Toys R Us makes our jobs harder when they don't tell us about toxic chemicals in children's products. Toys R Us needs to fully disclose all dangerous chemicals in their products so we can make informed decisions. But that's not enough: we need to pass legislation that enforces transparency and replaces toxic chemicals with safer alternatives. Our children's health is at stake."
"Like parents everywhere, those of us in Harlem and Washington Heights want to be sure we are not buying toys for our children that can cause cancer or developmental impacts. We call on Toys R Us to immediately get PVC out of the toys that they sell," said Cecil Corbin-Mark, Deputy Director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice.
Scientific experts say that there is no safe way to manufacture, use or dispose of PVC products. Chemicals released in PVC's lifecycle have been linked to chronic diseases that on the rise in children, impaired child development & birth defects, cancer, disruption of the endocrine system, reproductive impairment, and immune system suppression.
"This issue goes beyond what is found in children's toys. We need and deserve good jobs, a clean environment, and safe and healthy products," said John Williams, Teamster Warehouse Director. "We have repeatedly pointed out that KKR has not been acting in a responsible fashion across several of its controlled companies, and this needs to stop. Our 1.4 million members expect us to look after their well-being. Most have children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews. Our commitment to our members extends beyond the workplace and includes their loved ones."
The Teamsters are also fighting for accountability from another controversial company, U.S. Foodservice, which is co-owned by private equity firms KKR and CD&R. U.S. Foodservice has been cited more than 100 times by the National Labor Relations Board for violating American labor laws protecting workers rights.
Founded in 1903, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters represents more than 1.4 million hardworking men and women in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.
SOURCE International Brotherhood of Teamsters; Center for Health, Environment & Justice