The lure of a good deal is hard to pass up, after all, we all work hard to earn our income. It is for this reason that discount stores and dollar retailers are so popular in the United States, allowing us to purchase all of our favorite items at rock bottom prices.
Dollar retailers carry everything from dishes to cleaning supplies, children’s toys to personal hygiene products. Are these ‘one-stop shops’ the key to having everything we want without breaking the bank?
A report from the Campaign for Healthier Solutions titled ‘A Day Late and A Dollar Short: Discount Retailers Are Falling Behind on Safer Chemicals’ reveals some serious concerns about the safety of the products that we are being sold. Testing 164 products from a variety of different discount retailers across 6 states, the report reveals that more than 81% of these products contained at least one hazardous chemical at a rate that exceeded the levels of concern as outlined by government regulations and voluntary chemical standards, with 49% containing two or more hazardous chemicals at these levels.
The report stated: “The largest dollar store chains are in a unique position to benefit the health and welfare of many communities of color and low-income communities where they operate, and grow and benefit their own businesses, by providing safe products. What has been missing in the discount retail sector so far – with the exception of a few important but limited actions – has been sustained focus on this issue at the top corporate leadership level and broad corporate policies to identify and phase out harmful chemicals across supply chains.”
Each of the products was tested for phthalates, polyvinyl chloride plastic (PVC or vinyl) and toxic metals including lead. Phthalates are associated with an increased risk of cancer, learning disabilities, diabetes, reduced fertility and birth defects. PVC is linked to problems with the lungs and an increased rate of asthma. Lead has been found to cause challenges with brain development, which has been found to lower IQ and lead to an increased rate of learning disabilities.
The findings of the report are incredibly alarming when you consider the target market for these discount retailers. These products are marketed to families and children, increasing the risk of children being exposed to this toxic chemicals. Due to their low body weight, children will feel the impact of these chemicals far more than an adult would. For this reason, they are at a much higher risk of significant damage.
Jeff Gearhart, Research Director with HealthyStuff explained, “We’ve tested 1000s of products from dozens of retailers over the last ten years, and on average the dollar store products are some of the poorest performing from a chemical hazard perspective. I am particularly concerned about the comparatively high percentage of products containing hazardous plasticizers.”
Following the report, the Campaign for Healthier Solutions sent a letter to the CEOs of the four largest Dollar store chains in the country – Dollar General, Dollar Tree, Family Dollar and 99 Cents Only. The letter called on the companies to cease the sale of products containing these toxic chemicals. They also urged the companies to develop and adopt new policies that will protect the consumers as well as their businesses moving forward.