PHOENIX – Disney-a word often associated with kid friendly, the innocence of childhood, movies with a message of morality, soundtracks that took their place in history took a different meaning today in downtown Phoenix.
Disney characters on children’s apparel and products are ubiquitous throughout the world but the poisons in Disney products are usually not on the shopping list of those selecting that perfect holiday gift or stocking up on back-to-school supplies. Today, Don’t Waste Arizona, the Sierra Club, Center for Health Environment & Justice, and Alliance for Global Justice Eco-Solidarity Project showed up to the Walt Disney Company’s annual shareholders’ meeting at the Orpheum Theater to educate about the toxins in Disney products. Disney’s shareholders, senior executives and board of directors were treated to leaflets passed to them by local groups outlining their demands to have the phthalates and toxic vinyl phased out of their children’s products.
Although phthalates which are used to soften vinyl previously have been banned in toys, due to links to asthma, birth defects, ADHD, and obesity, Disney’s school supplies such as backpacks, lunchboxes, and rain boots continue to contain varying levels of the toxins. The Center for Health, Environment, and Justice, a 25 year old health and environment nonprofit, published an August 2012 report which found phthalates in these products up to 59 times the safety level in Disney products.
“In 2008 Congress banned a very poisonous chemical from toys to protect our children,” Liz Hourican, a parent who participated in the protest, “and we found out after this law that it’s in backpacks and also lunchboxes. So the first part [of the protest] is to educate shareholders-the people who have the most vested interest and local moms and things that we want them to be aware of-this-and get rid of it. Disney can do that”.
According to Don’t Waste Arizona members, 65,000 signatures have been collected on the sites change.org and momsrising.org calling for the phasing out of toxic chemicals in Disney products. Steve Brittle, member of Don’t Waste Arizona evaluated the results of the protest, “We’re finding that people are asking us, how do they as shareholders ask the company to remove these chemicals from the products and so were explaining to them that they can raise an objection from the floor and call for a vote to ask the company to remove these chemicals. So that’s a very good response”. He continued, “The stockholders were very receptive. They weren’t aware that this was a problem. And when we asked them to please straighten this out they were very positive about wanting to do that”.
Production of Disney products often takes place in areas of poverty according to James Jordan, founder of Alliance for Global Justice Eco-Solidarity Project who said that for him the issue is not only a labor and environmental issue but an issue of racism, “It’s not only a children’s issue, it’s an environmental issue and an issue of environmental racism actually because most of these products are produced both internationally and here in the U.S. in areas where there is a lot of poverty where there are oppressed and targeted communities and communities of color and it pollutes the land and the water they drink, the air that we all breathe. So it’s definitely both a labor and an environmental issue”.
Disney is the world’s largest licensure of consumer products. For a look at the products that were tested by the Center for Health, Environment, and Justice click on the link:
Ida del Rio/The Nation Report