Everyone wants to get more than they paid for. Who doesn’t like a bargain? Unfortunately, recent testing of 164 dollar store products found that the little extras they’re offering are toxic chemicals like toxic metals, pthlates, BPAs, and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic.
Healthystuff, an organization that researches toxic chemicals in everyday products, teamed with the Campaign for Healthier Solutions to release this report, which found over 81% of the products tested from retailers like Dollar Tree and Dollar General had a troubling level of at least one hazardous chemical.
With the majority of dollar store customers unable to afford to shop elsewhere, will these findings change the way the dollar stores do business? Or will they continue to take advantage of people who feel they don’t have a choice?
Can You Trust Big Business?
Walmart is the first corporation you think of when you think of big business that caters to lower-income people and families. That dollar store hidden in a strip mall doesn’t even seem to be on the same level. Don’t be fooled – dollar stores are big business and they’re getting bigger. Dollar Tree has 4,900 stores and with their tentative acquisition of Family Dollar has potentially added 8000 more stores. In contrast, Walmart had only 4,399 locations in the United States at the end of last year.
The four stores that had products tested in this study (Dollar General, Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, and 99 Cents Only) have combined sales of over 36 million. This is big business, and it seems like dollar stores are more concerned with profiting from cheaply made, toxic items than providing consumers with safe products.
Healthystuff found widespread causes for alarm in their tests of dollar store products. In addition to the 81% of items that were found to contain concerning levels of one hazardous chemical, a little less than half (49%) of the items tested had two or more hazardous toxins at concerning levels.
PVC was found in 38% of items tested and 32% had high levels of pthalates, a group of chemicals found to cause birth defects, diabetes, and cancer as well as other health issues. Forty percent of sales at these dollar stores are food products. Too often, lower income people choose these items due to their affordability, not knowing about the presence of cancer-causing BPAs or other chemicals.
Who Does This Effect?
So who’s shopping at here? Who are the dollar stores hurting with their lack of regulations on toxic chemicals? Thanks to the recent recession, the pool of customers who do their shopping at the dollar store has increased. The number of Americans living below the poverty level increased by 40%, and as more people find themselves living paycheck to paycheck, these cheap, just-for-right now products have more appeal. Dollar stores also rely on their widespread store locations. Convenience is a big deal to consumers, and that’s another thing that attracts people to dollar stores.
The Results and What You Can Do
Now that these tests are out there, the onus is on the dollar stores to do something. Removing the chemicals from their products would of course be the best-case scenario.
The Campaign for Healthier Solutions is calling on dollar stores nationwide to remove children’s products with lead and pthalates and adopting chemical management policies that will identify, share, and remove chemicals. You can also check your state and local policies requiring discount stores to disclose hazardous materials and make efforts to switch to less toxic, safer alternatives.
If you’re using toxic cleaning products, see Clean Your Home Cheaply and Easily Without Toxic Chemicals – DIY. If you or someone you know is concerned about being exposed to chemicals from dollar store products, check out Staying Healthy In This Toxic World.
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- 81 Percent Of Dollar Store Products Tested Contain Chemicals Linked To Learning Disabilities, Cancer and Serious Illnesses – Truth Theory
- Walmart Is in BIG Trouble as Family Dollar and Dollar Tree Merge – The Street
- Battle for Poor Shoppers Fuels Dollar-Store Deal – The Wall Street Journal