While you may be taking some strain off your pocketbook by shopping at the dollar store, a report published last week suggests that you’re definitely not doing your health any favors.
The study performed by the Campaign for Healthier Solutions demonstrated that chain dollar stores such as Dollar General, Family Dollar, Dollar Tree, and 99-Cents Only stock and sell products that contain chemicals known to have serious human health consequences, including cancer and diabetes.
The Campaign for Healthier Solutions tested 164 dollar store products: from children’s toys to bathroom decor, to school and office supplies. They found high levels of at least one toxic chemical or metal, like phthalates, lead, bromine, chromium and polyvinyl chloride, in a whopping 81 percent of the products.
Phthalates, or endocrine disrupters that have been linked to birth defects, cancer, fertility issues, and asthma, were a very common finding, along with PVC products, the production and disposal of which release harmful chemicals and gases that can have detrimental effects on people’s health and the environment.
Although the study suggested that lead had mostly been reduced or eliminated in products for children, some products tested which children could be exposed to still contained dangerous amounts of lead.
These findings are concerning for a number of reasons, besides the obvious immediate health concerns. First is that, although we often focus on the dangers of big chains like Target or Wal-Mart, there are actually more dollar stores in the US (24,000) than there are Wal-Marts and Targets combined (about 6,000) – and that only counts the ‘big 3’ dollar store chains.
Second is that in some communities, dollar stores are the only store selling basic necessities—including food—which means families have no choice but to be exposed to these chemicals.
Thirdly, many of the products in dollar stores target children, who are at an even greater risk of being affected by these chemicals than adults. As the study points out: “Because they eat, drink, and breathe more per pound of body weight than adults, their [children’s] bodies do not process many toxic chemicals in the same way that adult bodies do.”
Some of these chains, like the Dollar Tree, are already aware that they’re providing dangerous products. Since 2005, the store has tested some of their products for BPA, phthalates, PVC, lead, and cadmium, in attempts to reduce the prevalence of these additives. However, according to the report, “none of the largest chains have yet adopted comprehensive chemical management policies, leaving their customers, workers, and investors exposed to possible harm and liability. It’s time for that to change.”
In the meantime, the report recommends that consumers should try to buy more locally made products, and when the dollar store is the only option, to try to buy the least toxic products available on the shelves – although this may be difficult to determine.
It also encourages people to communicate their need for safe, nontoxic products to store managers, corporate leadership, and government officials, and to join local and national efforts advocating for nontoxic products.
For the full report, see here: A Day Late and A Dollar Short: Discount Retailers Are Falling Behind on Safer Chemicals.
-The Alternative Daily