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New Target Chemical Policy Continues Retailer Regulation Trend

U.S. retailer Target has announced that it will begin phasing out certain chemicals of concern from products sold at its stores. Additionally, suppliers will be required to provide a full list of ingredients for products of certain categories. The company’s new plans are a part of its new chemical policy that involves “identifying, reducing, and eliminating substances in our products, supply chain and operations when they demonstrate a potential risk to our guests or team members.” Target’s announcement, which outlines steps to be taken for chemical management, transparency, and innovation, also includes investment of up to $5 million in “green chemistry” by 2022.

Chemical Management

In addition to eliminating phthalates, nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs), propyl-paraben, butyl-paraben, formaldehyde and formaldehyde-donors from all beauty, baby care, personal care and cleaning products by 2020, the company also plans to eliminate perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) and certain flame-retardants from textiles by 2022. For the present, these changes apply only to the products and not to their packaging. Target will use chemical hazard profiles to prioritize chemicals of concern, with the emphasis being on chemicals most likely to have the greatest impact on workers and customers. The retailer also anticipates using restricted substances lists and manufacturing restricted substances lists to “minimize and, where possible, remove these prioritized chemicals from [its] products and processes.”

Transparency and Investment

Suppliers of fragrances, beauty care, baby care, personal care, and cleaning products will be required to disclose all chemicals in those products by 2020. Target’s long-term goal is to have lists available for all of the products offered in its store. Because chemical alternatives may not be readily available, Target will invest up to $5 million in green chemistry by 2022. The retailer has partnered with the Green Chemistry and Commerce Council’s (GC3) Preservatives Challenge, and has indicated interest in speaking with more potential partners.


This is another example of an ongoing – and growing trend – of retailer chemical regulation outpacing agency regulation of chemicals in consumer products. With business pressure being brought to bear on the use of “safer” chemicals in consumer products, industry is facing even more regulatory fragmentation: companies not only must comply with federal, state, and local regulations but, if they wish to stay in business, “private” retailer regulations as well. Where these regulations do not overlap with one another, the costs of doing business will be driven up. And, where sound science does not underpin these regulations consistently, the goal of “safer” products may well be undermined.


This blog article was researched and written by Brown University Class of 2018 student Aisha Keown-Lang. Ms. Lang is studying biology and political science at Brown University with the goal of going into bioethics and public health. Her special interest in genetics stems from her research in the Li Lab at UCSF and the Gerbi Lab at Brown. After having worked with children in the Providence school system for nearly three years, her commitment to improving scientific literacy and expanding health services in underserved communities remains strong. Ms. Lang is currently a writer for Brown’s Science Cartoon Program (SciToons), which aims to communicate scientific research and ideas to a diverse audience.

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Ms. Grimaldi maintains a diverse environmental law practice focusing on chemical and product regulation and litigation defense. Her practice areas include Proposition 65, California's Safer Consumer Products Regulations, California's Rigid Plastic Packaging Container Act and the federal Toxic Substances Control Act. Ms. Grimaldi graduated from the University of California Hastings College of the Law magna cum laude and holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Bacteriology from University of California, Davis. Prior to attending law school, she worked as a research assistant in laboratories at the University of California, San Francisco Cancer Research Institute and at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine.