HealthyStuff, in collaboration with the Campaign for Healthier Solutions, released a report today about toxic chemicals found in Dollar store products. The report — A Day Late and a Dollar Short: Discount Retailers are Falling Behind on Safer Chemicals — includes testing results for 164 dollar store products such as toys, jewelry, school supplies and other household items, that found over 81% (133 of 164) contained at least one hazardous chemical above levels of concern.
The campaign also sent a letter to the CEO’s of the four largest Dollar store chains — including Family Dollar (tentatively acquired by Dollar Tree on January 22), Dollar Tree, Dollar General, and 99 Cents Only urging them to stop the sale of products with hazardous chemicals to communities of color and low-income families, who already live in more polluted areas and “food deserts,” and adopt policies that will protect both customers and their businesses. Combined these discount chains have sales totaling over $36 billion and operate more stores nationally than Walmart.
“People struggling to make ends meet are confined to shopping at the Dollar stores,” said Jose T. Bravo, National Coordinator for the Campaign for Healthier Solutions. “We are already disproportionately affected by pollution and lack of adequate medical care, and now we know we’re filling our homes and our bodies with chemicals released from Dollar store products. This needs to stop. “
“We’ve tested 1,000′s of products from dozens of retailers over the last ten years, said Jeff Gearhart, HealthyStuff Research Director. “And on average the dollar store products are some of the poorest peforming from a chemical hazard perspective. I am particularly concerned about the comparatively high percentage of products containing hazardous plasticizers. “
The chemicals of concern found in Dollar store products tested for this report include: phthalates, linked to birth defects, reduced fertility, cancer, learning disabilities, diabetes, and other health issues; polyvinyl chloride plastic (PVC or vinyl), which creates hazards throughout its life cycle and has been linked to asthma and lung effects; and toxic metals such as lead, which harms brain development, leading to learning disabilities, lower IQ, and cause other serious health impacts, especially in children.
Other key findings from the report include:
- 49% of products tested (80 of 164) contained two or more hazardous chemicals above levels of concern;
- 38% of the products tested (63 of 164) contained the toxic plastic PVC (vinyl);
- 32% of a subset of vinyl products tested for phthalates (12 of 38) contained levels of phthalates above the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) limit for children’s products.
In addition, 40% of sales at Dollar stores go toward food products (not tested for this report) — much of which is highly processed with low nutritional quality, and whose packaging is another potential source of toxic chemicals including bisphenol-A (BPA), a synthetic hormone linked to breast and others cancers, reproductive problems, obesity, early puberty and heart disease.
Fortunately, there is a growing movement by mainstream retail and manufacturing brands — including Target and Walmart — to respond to consumer demand for safer products with publicly-available corporate policies that identify, disclose, and replace priority toxic chemicals with safer alternatives. By failing to address toxic chemicals through comprehensive policies, Dollar chains are not only putting their customers at risk, they are exposing their businesses to the fate of companies like Mattel, which lost 18% of its value after recalling toys with lead paint, and Sigg USA, which went bankrupt after failing to disclose toxic BPA in its water bottles.
The Campaign for Healthier Solutions is asking for a comprehensive set of reforms, including that:
Discount Retailers immediately remove children’s products found to contain regulated phthalates and lead from store shelves; and adopt comprehensive corporate chemical management policies to identify, disclose, and remove hazardous chemicals from their supply chains and from all products in their stores, beginning with their house brands.
Local, State, and Federal Governments ensure that discount retailers comply with all relevant laws and regulations; and adopt public policies (such as Maine’s Kid-Safe Products Law and Washington’s Children’s Safe Products Act) that require manufacturers and retailers to disclose hazardous chemicals in products, research alternatives, and remove hazardous chemicals when alternatives are available, effective, and safer.