Who needs government regulation when you have Wal-Mart? The retial giant is bypassing the government all together with a recent announcement that it will ban a controversial flame retardant commonly found in consumer goods, from computers to couches child safety seats.
The chemicals in question are polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, a class of chemical compounds used since the 70s as flame retardants in everything from furniture to electronics to sporting goods. But several studies have linked the chemicals to problems with the liver, thyroid and reproductive systems and brain development in laboratory animals.
In a recent notice to its suppliers, Wal-Mart said it would begin its own round of testing on June 1st to make sure products do not contain PBDEs. The company stated that the decision to ban PBDEs had been made several years ago, but just recently reminded its suppliers that it would begin verification testing.
Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency cited PBDEs as "chemicals of concern" but the process to limit their use has been stuck in bureaucratic review for months.
Wal-Mart cut through the red tape by simply banning the chemicals from the products sold in their dtores. While their ban won't have the sweeping effect that an EPA ban would have - it only affects products sold in Wal-Mart - its ripple effect will trickle down as suppliers change their manufacturing processes to comply with Wal-Mart's regulation.
So who needs government when you have Wal-Mart? And could BPA be next?