Tests find toxic chemicals in 50% of dollar store products
Products sold at dollar stores may be cheap, but a new report from the Campaign for Healthier Solutions has also found high levels of toxic chemicals in budget brands, raising questions of environmental justice.
The consumer advocacy group purchased 226 products from Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, Dollar General, Five Below and 99 Cents Only stores in seven states and Ontario, Canada, and tested a total of 635 product components for the toxic metals and endocrine disruptors such as flames. retarders, bisphenol A and its substitutes, phthalates and PFAS, also called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances.
The results showed that half of the articles contained one or more chemicals of concern.
“Many families rely on dollar stores to find affordable toys and other products for children,” said José Bravo, National Coordinator of the Healthier Solutions Campaign. “With their high profit margins, dollar stores need to do more to make sure all of these products are safe.”
One of the most surprising products where testing revealed the presence of toxic chemicals was children’s headphones.
The “Squishy unicorn headphones” sold at Five Below contained ortho-phthalate plasticizer, while the same retailer’s Disney Princess wireless headphones contained flame retardant in the earphone foam. Children’s headphones sold at Dollar Tree and Family Dollar contained solder with 22,000 parts per million lead, and had PVC cable insulation and coated fabrics containing plasticizers. Headphones sold by 99 Cents Only Stores also contained lead in the solder and orthophthalate plasticizers.
Jeff Gearhart, director of the Healthy Stuff Lab at the Ecology Center, which conducted the tests, said the presence of chemicals in the earbuds raises environmental justice concerns because makers of high-end headphones like Apple and Samsung have corporate policies in place preventing them from using many chemicals of concern. This means that people who can afford more expensive headphones are unlikely to be exposed to the same chemicals, he said.
“Electronics is remarkable because we clearly have this shared market,” he said.
Many of the products tested were food packaging or food-related products, like nonstick cookware and microwave popcorn, where researchers suspected PFAS or PFAS-based coatings might be used. . In many cases, their hunches were correct, with Act II Butter Lovers Microwave Popcorn sold at 99 Cents Only Stores showing 473 parts per million total fluoride, a PFAS indicator, and nonstick frying pans sold by Family Dollar containing a nonstick coating. based on PFAS.
The Campaign for Healthier Solutions also tested receipts from each of the retailers and found that all contained chemicals of concern, including bisphenol S. Retail workers in particular, who can handle hundreds of receipts per day, he said.
“It’s a worker health issue – which makes it an environmental justice issue even if you have the same receipts at high-end retailers,” he said.
Of the retailers whose products were tested, only Dollar Tree, which also owns Family Dollar, responded to inquiries from E&E News.
“The security of our product is a key priority for us,” said Randy Guiler, vice president of investor relations. “Our products are tested to ensure compliance with all federal and state requirements, and our testing protocols are in place to verify regulated standards.”
Dollar Tree is also the only off-price retailer that has already begun setting its own standards for chemicals in the consumer goods it sells.
Last June, shortly after the Campaign for Healthier Solutions purchased the products it would test, Dollar Tree and Family Dollar updated their “Priority chemical policycommitting to eliminate the intentional use of PFAS and phthalates in private label food and beverage packaging by 2023. By 2024, Dollar Tree and Family Dollar say they will phase out the use of PVC in all private label children’s products.
“We will continue to review the standards and consider additional changes to our policies,” Guiler said.
Bravo said he appreciates the brands’ focus on the issue, but they need to expand their list of restricted chemicals and apply it to more products. He also said other dollar store chains should do the same and noted that representatives from 99 Cents Only Stores and Five Below did not respond to the campaign for healthier solutions informing them of the results. .
“We call on other dollar stores to match these efforts and go even further to ensure products are safe for children and families,” he said.