NEW YORK, N.Y. — Target announced yesterday a plan to become the latest retailer to reduce the amount of toxic materials in some of the products it sells: following a campaign by health and environmental groups, the nation's fifth-largest retailer said it would eliminate or reduce polyvinyl chloride (PVC) from a range of its products and packaging.

The move specifically targets infant and children's products, shower curtains, tableware and packaging. The company said several lines of products are already PVC-free, including children's eating utensils, lunchboxes and soft-sided coolers. Among the targets are a plan to make baby bibs and baby changing tables PVC-free by January 2008 and phasing out phthalates from toys by the fall of 2008.

Target's plan follows in the footsteps of Wal-Mart, which just achieved its two-year goal of eliminating PVC from packaging for its house-brand line of products. Similarly, governmental regulations puts more pressure on retailers to ban toxins: the European Union and the state of California have both banned phthalates from children's products, and six other states and the U.S. Congress are considering similar legislation.

In addition to reformulating these products, a part of yesterday's announcement was the creation of a "Sustainable Products Guide," which also aims to educate Target consumers about the risks of PVC. Polyvinyl chloride poses numerous hazards to human health and the environment, according to a fact sheet from the Center for Environmental Health and Justice, one of the groups involved in the campaign against Target.

PVC is a plastic product that is softened by an array of chemicals, many of which are suspected or confirmed carcinogens immune systems and endocrine disruptors, and PVC products release toxins likes mercury, phthalates and dioxin throughout their life cycles.