Wednesday, February 17, 2016

What to Never Buy at a Dollar Store

The local dollar store. Many people, especially parents, turn to these stores to provide numerous products for their family’s everyday use.

In fact, Dollar Stores are in almost every town in the nation, and are a lifeline for many families, especially low income families that turn to these stores not only for every day staples but for gifts for their young children. According to the Moms Clean Air Force “ the top three dollar store chains – Dollar General, Dollar Tree, and Family Dollar – together operate almost 24,000 stores in the US, compared to about 4,000 Walmarts…they are expanding faster than other retailers”

Regardless of your family's social economic status, you and your children have and will probably come into contact with products purchased at dollar stores.... in fact, I remember last year our private preschool recommended we buy stickers and trinkets at dollar stores to donate for the school's yearly Halloween trick or treat event. 

So, we know there are great deals to be found - but at what cost (pun intended)? How safe are the products found at Dollar Stores? The folks at HealthyStuff. org recently completed a test of over 160 popular products at four major ‘dollar store’ retailers—Dollar General, Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, and 99 Cents Only—in six U.S. states.

The findings? Pretty scary.

  • 81% of the products (133 out of 164) contained at least one hazardous chemical above levels of concern! That means chemicals associated with cancer, obesity, diabetes, asthma, thyroid and kidney diseases, learning problems, lower IQ, birth defects and early puberty

Here are the 10 most toxic products in Dollar Stores that you should never ever buy

1. Electronic Accessories: Extension cords, USB charging cords and cell phone charger cables from dollar stores tested high in chlorine, a sign that the items were made with a plastic called polyvinyl chloride, or PVC. PVC is made from vinyl chloride, a cancer-causing chemical that has harmed workers and contaminated communities close to the factories.   

NTM tip: Buy these accessories from reputable electronic stores instead 

2. Plastic Kitchen Utensils: Slotted spoons and spatulas may contain high levels of bromine, a component in brominated flame retardants, one of the most toxic flame retardants out there,  linked to cancer, birth defects and impaired brain development, and have been banned or phased out in the U.S.

 NTM tip: choose stainless steel or silicon made utensils 

3. Flannel-Backed Table Covers: What chemical could a table cover possible have? Well, recent testing uncovered high levels of lead, a neurotoxic metal that is especially harmful to fetuses and children. Lead has been linked to reduced IQ and behavioral problems. While you are at it, avoid vinyl tablecloths too since these are made with cancer-linked vinyl chloride. 

NTM tip: Purchase washable fabric table covers or disposable paper covers. 

4. Silly straws: Especially worrisome, since these are designed to be placed in children’s mouths and even chewed on, these straws were  shown to have high levels of DEHP, a phthalate used to soften plastics. Phthalates interfere with the body’s hormones, and studies have linked phthalate exposure to asthma, allergies, prostate and testicular cancer and type 2 diabetes. Six phthalates, including DEHP, have been restricted in children's products– the problem being that silly straws are not technically children's products so, legally, they are allowed to contain these high levels of this toxic chemical.   

NTM TIP: Plastic straws in general are also bad for the environment, so if you are buying straws for your kids try cute and colorful paper straws instead

5. Vinyl Floor/Shower Coverings: Your kids stand and even sit on these bathmats made out of vinyl.  According to the findings, these items tested positive in both phthalates and chlorine ( phthalate exposure is linked to asthma, allergies, prostate and testicular cancer and type 2 diabetes and chlorine means it is made of PVC with is super toxic for environment and potentially for humans too)

 NTM TIP: Look for PVC free or Vinyl Free on the label. Alternatively, place a towel for kids to sit on in the bath 

6. Holiday Light Strings: For at least a month out of the year these lights will fill our homes with holiday cheer… and toxic flame retardants . High levels of chlorine and bromine (PVC and fire retardant chemicals) in these lights easily migrate into your home’s dust and from their you either breath it in  or touch it with your hands and then ingest. These chemicals are linked to cancer and thyroid problems. 

 NTM tip: Buy lights that are RoHS-compliant. ("Restriction of Hazardous Substances" is a European toxics standard that limits some flame retardants in electronics), open your windows daily  and always keep dust to a minimum inside your house.

7. Children’s Jewelry: In general cheap, metal jewelry- anywhere it is purchased- runs a
sample children jewelry sold at 99c Store
very high risk of exposing your child to numerous chemicals including lead. These recent tests showed earrings from dollar stores with high lead levels. Kids can then scratch or suck the jewelry and ingest tiny amounts of lead which can harm the child’s brain development.

 NTM TIP: don’t buy metal jewelry. Instead recycle your old jewelry or opt for fabric made jewelry. 

8. Metallic, Mardi Grad style beads. As a parent you have probably run into these at birthday parties and other festivals (or Mardi Gras!) These necklaces tested high in bromine, a harmful flame retardant linked to cancer and thyroid problems. These beads also commonly contain lead. 
NTM TIP: These are not toys, avoid these for children especially children you like to put things in their mouths. 

9. Window Clings and Removable Wall stickers:  Open these products and you will probably smell the vinyl they are made of.  Vinyl has been called one of the most toxic plastics for children's health.

 NTM TIP: Less toxic options do exist, just not in these stores. Turn to Etsy and other online shops and look for wall stickers not made of vinyl. Cloth stickers are an option… 


Other troubling chemicals were found in toys- these are items specifically marketed to little kids.  Among the toys found to have these high levels of these chemicals were:
  • 3 Pack Squeeze Ducks: high levels of chlorine ( a sign that the items were made with a plastic called polyvinyl chloride, or PVC which is a chemical known to cause cancer.)
  • 5  Formula Car toys : high levels of Bromine and lead (linked to  cancer, birth defects and impaired brain development )
  • Avengers Assemble Backpack: high levels of chlorine/PVC ( linked to cancer & huge environmental polluter)
  • Doc McStuffins Bathtub Fingerpaint Set: high levels of chlorine ( linked to cancer & huge environmental polluter)
  • Cancer Awareness Accessories: HOPE chain and pendant: high levels of chlorine/PVC ( linked to cancer & huge environmental polluter)
  • Fairies Dolls: high level of chlorine/PVC  ( linked to cancer & huge environmental polluter)
  • Fairy Magic Placemat: high level of chlorine/ PVC ( linked to cancer & huge environmental polluter)
  • Fashion Girl Dolls: high level of chlorine/ PVC ( linked to cancer & huge environmental polluter)
  • Kids Copertone Flip flops & Jelly Clogs: High Level Chlorine/ PVC  ( linked to cancer & huge environmental polluter)

There verdict?   With 81% of the products tested containing at least one hazardous chemical above levels of concern, I have to say:  proceed with caution.   Until these large chains show a commitment to reducing the toxic chemical load their products are made of, it just is not safe to purchase many items at these stores.  

 If you must shop at one of these stores, try to avoid purchasing any plastic, metal items or any child items (most of which are plastic or metal)  since these seem to hold the most potential to expose your family to high levels of toxic chemicals.  

If you want to help push these large store chains to change their ways consider signing The Moms Clean Air Force Petition to ask " CEO's of Dollar Stores To Stop Selling Toxic Products".  It will only take 15 seconds to fill out your name and some basic information and it could make a huge difference, especially for those family's who depend on Dollar Stores and don't have the luxury to shop elsewhere.  

1 comment :

  1. Oh My God. Thank you for letting me know about all this, I really appreciate it. Why doesn't the govt. take any step against such Dollar Shops that sell deadly products to their customers?