Stores I will not shop at…
While it seems I have said this a million times in conversations over the past decade (+) since I started doing independent consumer goods testing, I felt it was time to finally put this in writing!
Below is a quick list of stores I will no longer regularly shop at because they have sold things with Lead in the fairly recent past [or because they currently (in 2020) still sell things with Lead]. Stores are not on this list merely because they sold “one thing that tested positive for high levels of Lead” — but rather because they have consistently sold things containing Lead. In most cases this activity has persisted in spite of the store being made aware of the concerns. Additionally, in several cases the items they have sold (or are selling) have not been properly labeled or marked as containing Lead.
As a mother of Lead poisoned children, I cannot in good conscience shop at these stores*.
*Note: one exception… I may pop in to their stores every now and then to intentionally buy some products I suspect may likely contain high levels of Lead. I do this so that I can publish the test results for those products here on my blog and warn my readers that these stores still carry or manufacture products with Lead (as I did with Cost Plus World Market, Starbucks and Sur La Table this past 2019 holiday season.)
“But Tamara, the store assures us their products are safe…”
- U.S. regulatory agencies currently allow for Lead to be present in products (including dishes and kitchenware) — and for those products to still be considered “safe” by current U.S. regulatory standards.
- The above legal consideration does not mean these stores’ products are free of toxicants (neurotoxic and/or carcinogenic heavy metals – including Lead, Cadmium, Mercury, Antimony and Arsenic)!
- While some of these stores have taken steps towards selling fewer toxic products (and even made efforts to specifically offer a selection of non-toxic products), many of these stores still actually have store-branded-products that they have sold in recent years (or are still selling) – products which incorporate high levels of Lead (and/or other toxicants) in the substrate (base metal) or in the paint, glaze or coating of the items.
- At least one of these stores have committed CPSIA violations for selling children’s products with Lead, leading to product recalls (namely Pottery Barn), and then turned around and manufactured more children’s products that have tested positive for Lead! [Post to come shortly about a second Pottery Barn Kids water bottle I recently discovered was positive for Lead.]
- Many of these stores sell products that are “not intended for use by children” that contain high levels of Lead (which is perfectly legal) and even sometimes use greenwashing marketing language to make customers think the amount of Lead is negligible/acceptable. This includes dishes. Dishes are not generally considered (by regulatory agencies) to be “items intended for use by children!” !!!!
- Several stores specifically sell products with Lead or Cadmium (products sold in the category of being “not intended for use by children”) in designs and functional uses that ensures children will most definitely be drawn to using these items [here’s a 2019 Sur La Table example of this & here’s a 2019 Cost Plus example & here’s a 2019 Starbucks example.] To clarify this: the distinction “not intended for use by children” is a marketing distinction in language only used to make it possible for these stores to sell Leaded items legally, regardless of who the actual intended user (or realistically intended user) is.
- None of these stores on my list have taken a public stand against using Lead in all of their products [that I am aware of as of this writing], although some appear to have have silently made changes in their manufacturing processes in response to my findings and/or public pressure/demand.
- To my knowledge, none of the stores on my list have acknowledged that, regardless of whether or not their Leaded products are legal (and thus considered “safe” by virtue of current U.S. Federal standards) the fact that they are creating and/or selling products incorporating Lead contributes to the demand for mining, refining and manufacturing of Leaded substrate materials and pigments – which pollutes our planet (air, water, soil) for all future generations.
- To my knowledge, none of the stores on this list have made customers aware (via public written statements) that products they have sold in the past are high in Lead (or other toxicants). If I am somehow wrong about this, please share a link with me to a company’s public statement on this issue. In response to this concern (Lead in past products) across the board – the common legalese refrain you will consistently hear or read is: “We have always complied with all regulatory requirements.” To justify past usage of high levels of toxicants in products, manufacturers repeat this reassuring-sounding refrain — even when referring to products made during an era when there were no regulatory standards!
- All of the above is especially egregious considering that, in most cases, people shop at these particular stores because they have confidence that the products sold through these stores are higher-quality (which ostensibly justifies their “upmarket” status – and expense), and therefore they assume that these products are “safer” choices for their families (now and long-term).
I am not saying that *all* products from these stores have Lead, but that some definitely do (or have in the recent past) – and consequently, I do not want to give these companies my business personally. You may still choose to shop at these stores, but I recommend that you do so with caution, knowing that “following all regulatory standards” on products “made for use by adults” (including dishes, decor and furniture) does not mean that those products are necessarily toxicant-free.
In 2020 and beyond, we definitely have alternatives to using Lead in consumer goods, and specifically we have suitable, non-toxic, proven-safe alternatives.
I may update this post periodically.
If any store on this list contemplates threatening me in any way with legal action for publishing this, I have irrefutable, science-based data in support of my claims here, and I have no absolutely concerns about the validity of each my statements and, as such, I will publish any communications from stores (in response to this post) here on my blog, as I have in the past.
For naysayers or disbelievers (or folks just finding this site and unfamiliar with my work), I will leave you with this: Beyond my status as a “trusted authority” among both mainstream environmental journalists, and environmental bloggers alike, and the fact that I been the recipient of numerous awards (including two from the U.S. Federal Government) for my research and advocacy work — if any of the statements here on my blog were not 100% true, companies would certainly have attempted to sue me by now to take down this “unflattering” information. As this information is readily available on my blog (and has been for years), you can logically be reasonably confident that my statements are likely true.
And so, without further ado, below is the list of stores I will not personally shop at*, because they consistently sell (or have sold) products containing Lead. When available, each store name listed below (in bold pink text) is a link to posts on this blog with products from that store / brand that I have tested, including both products with and without Lead.
The list of stores I will no longer shop at (for purchasing gifts or consumer goods):
- Williams Sonoma (store website link)
- Tiffany & Co. (store website link)
- Pottery Barn (store website link)
- Sur La Table (store website link)
- Crate & Barrel (store website link)
- Anthropologie (store website link)
- Restoration Hardware (store website link)
- Rejuvenation Hardware (store website link)
- Habitat ReStore (store website link)
- Cost Plus World Market (store website link)
- Pier One (store website link)
- Starbucks (store website link)
Why is having Lead in consumer goods a problem?
To read more about some specific concerns for Lead in consumer goods, please check out the following posts:
- The concern for Lead in pottery and dishware.
- The concern for Lead in crystal.
- The overarching concern for Lead in consumer goods over the course of our lifetime.
- The testing methodology I use for Lead levels reported on this website.
Takeaway… where should we shop instead (if we want to avoid Lead)?
- Shop less (seriously – any effort at healing our environment really does start there)
- Shop local (at smaller, locally-owned businesses, rather than large corporate-controlled chains)
- Make things ourselves, whenever possible – or fix or improve what we have (see #1 above)
- Buy local craftsman-made products (of whom we can ask what things are made of)
- Avoid (mass-produced) ceramics
- Avoid (mass-produced) painted metal items
- Avoid (mass-produced) painted wood products
- Avoid painted glass products
- Avoid painted products in general
- Avoid products that integrate decorative metal or tile/ceramic elements
- Avoid brass
- Select products made with simple natural materials (e.g. cotton, silk, wool, linen, hemp, clear glass, uncoated stone, unpainted wrought iron, unpainted wood, etc.) – rather than synthetic or composite materials manufactured with a very long global supply chain and/or dependent on environmentally-disastrous large-scale industrial manufacturing.
If (due to budget, geography or other reasons) you simply cannot shop local (or buy things from local craftsmen), while big box stores are often perceived as “evil” (from political and environmental perspectives), there are some that have better products and policies (from a toxicants-profile perspective). If you avoid their painted/decorated ceramics (and potentially Leaded brass-containing items like hardware and garden equipment), stores like Sears, Kmart, Walmart, Walgreens, Target, and Ikea often have less-toxic / safer choices for your family and your home – at very reasonable prices.
As always, please let me know if you have any questions.
Thank you for reading and for sharing my posts.