Wal-Mart Buyers warned

By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

While parents are perusing the shelves of their favorite Wal-Mart location this holiday season WakeUp Wal-Mart is asking shoppers to think carefully about the possibly harmful gifts they're buying their children this year.

Launching their third annual Hope for the Holidays campaign, WakeUp Wal-Mart, a national grass roots organization with over 400,000 supporters will be spending $1.5 million on TV and radio advertising to educate shoppers about harmful Chinese products on Wal-Mart's shelves, according to Meghan Scott, deputy campaign director for WakeUp Wal-Mart.

Scott added that Wal-Mart is the largest importer of Chinese goods to the United States, making 70 percent of goods on Wal-Mart shelves Chinese manufactured. In light of the recent toxic imports of lead-based toys from China, Scott said WakeUp Wal-Mart is calling for greater accountability from Wal-Mart and its Chinese manufacturers.

Scott said that one Chinese product called Aqua Dots that was included in Wal-Mart's "Top 12 Toys of Christmas" was recently recalled because they "convert to the date rape drug when kids eat them."

According to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, Aqua Dots are a "craft kit" of colored beads, which contain a coating that allows the beads to stick together when adding water. The commission's report stated that the chemical coating can turn toxic when ingested causing children to "become comatose, develop respiratory depression or have seizures."

Specifically the report stated that two cases of children swallowing Aqua Dots were reported to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission as of Nov. 7. After ingesting the product the two children experienced vomiting and "slipped into a comatose state" before making full recoveries.

Tyrone Housey, Western Massachusetts coordinator for WakeUp Wal-Mart said that the discounted children's toys from Wal-Mart's Chinese suppliers cost parents a larger price in the end.

"Discounts will really cost you in the long run," he said. "If you don't have any faith in the products who cares if it's cheap if it's not safe."

However, Sharon Weber, spokesperson for Wal-Mart said she denies any wrongdoing on the part of Wal-Mart or their disregard for the safety of Wal-Mart products.

"Our commitment to low prices is never at the cost of safety," Weber said. "Product safety has always been and will continue to be a top priority at Wal-Mart. Recently we voluntarily enhanced our product safety efforts specifically focused on toys to give parents additional reassurance as the holidays approach."

When asked if Wal-Mart has been receptive to their campaign or willing to work with WakeUp Wal-Mart in any way, Scott said Wal-Mart was quick to write them off.

Housey said the only way to get the corporation's attention and establish cooperative efforts toward change is to "effect their bottom line and then they will have to listen."

"We're not trying to hurt Wal-Mart," he said. "We just want them to be responsible employers and change for the better of our country. Even if you effect one percent of their bottom line they are concerned about that and it is a whole heck of a lot." The corporation achieves an annual profit of over $10 billion.

Housey reiterated that it's not the mission of WakeUp Wal-Mart to "shut Wal-Mart down" but for the corporation to take a greater responsibility for safety of their products. He said that various local campaigns for change will be conducted at Wal-Mart locations throughout the greater Springfield area Chicopee, Hadley, Westfield and Springfield this holiday season including candlelight vigils and press conferences.

For more information on WakeUp Wal-Mart visit their Web site at www.wakeupwalmart.com. For more information about Wal-Mart and their products go to www.walmart.com.

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