Communities Facing Disproportionate Exposure to Lead, BPA, and Other Toxics Concerned by Independent Tests Showing Hazards in Dollar Store Product
Washington, DC – On Tuesday, August 16th, the Campaign for Healthier Solutions, the American Sustainable Business Council, and the Learning Disabilities Association of America met with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to press for action on toxic chemicals found in products purchased from the nation’s largest discount retail chains (commonly known as ‘dollar stores’).
Independent laboratory testing showed that more than 80% of products purchased by researchers from Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, Dollar General and 99 Cents Only stores contained potentially dangerous levels of toxic chemicals at or above protective standards set by other governments, corporations, or other parties. However, these retail chains have not publicly disclosed any additional or more aggressive steps to protect customers.
Together, these retail chains operate over 21,500 stores, and serve millions of families in the United States. Campaign representatives also noted that some of these products, such as costume jewelry and silly straws, may have escaped regulatory oversight by being classified as products designed for adults instead of for children.
Public health and safety advocates from the Campaign for Healthier Solutions noted that representatives from the EPA and the FDA committed to reviewing the research conducted by third party labs. They also are taking up their case with the Consumer Products Safety Commission, and finding other ways to take protective action reducing the exposure of vulnerable communities and populations to hazardous chemicals in dollar store products.
Many communities of color and low-income families rely on these discount retailers as their only source of household products, and often even food. A recent story in the New York Times Magazine shows that 42% of dollar store customers make less than $30,000 each year. Without action by these chains to address the toxic chemicals found in products they sell, these already overburdened communities are unable to avoid risking the health of their families from overlapping exposures.
Jose Bravo, Coordinator with the Campaign for Healthier Solutions, said “Dollar stores are often located in Latino and Black communities–whose children already face some of the highest levels of exposure to toxic chemicals in the nation. Learning disabilities caused by lead and other dangerous chemicals in products are an environmental injustice that no parent wants their children to face.”
Products purchased at major dollar store chains across the nation were found to contain potentially dangerous levels of lead, phthalates, and other toxic chemicals. These substances are linked to serious health impacts, including cancer, learning and developmental disabilities, asthma and birth defects.
Since these findings were made publicly available, none of the nation’s four largest discount retailers have taken any public action, policy improvement, or new policy to protect their customers from toxic chemicals in their products. Dollar Tree recently released a 2016 ‘Sustainability Report’ in which the product safety section was copied nearly word-for-word from their last, preceding report in 2013 — and included no new policies or developments to prevent toxic chemical exposure to their customers.
Tracy Gregoire with the Learning Disabilities Association of America said “Dollar Tree, Dollar General, and 99 Cents Only have the power, and the responsibility, to tell their suppliers to get toxic chemicals out of products sold in their stores — however, if these dollar stores are unwilling to take action, we’ll continue pressing to get government involved. It’s unacceptable that dollar stores are selling products containing dangerous chemicals, and it’s time for someone to step up and protect our children’s health.”
Some discount retailers such as Target and Walmart have taken much more aggressive and comprehensive actions to remove harmful chemicals from products they sell in the last few years. At the moment, the nation’s largest discount retailers lag far behind in addressing hazardous chemicals in their products, which puts the communities they serve at a disproportionately higher risk exposure to toxic chemicals.
Product safety advocates noted that other major retailers began implementing policies restricting many hazardous chemicals in response to growing customer demand, as well as to pressure from shareholders and governments to move toward safer products. These leading retail chains have gone above and beyond mere compliance with the law in an effort to offer truly safer, less toxic products in response to growing consumer demand. In meeting this demand, manufacturers and retailers are experiencing great success by delivering safer and healthier products.
Campaign representatives working with product safety and public health experts have renewed their offer, first made in February 2015, to meet with dollar store executives and discuss further, substantive development of their corporate product safety policies but, in lieu of action directly from the stores, they plan to continue pressing government agencies for protective action.
Full product testing results and methodology can be found here: http://www.ecocenter.org/healthy-stuff/reports/dollar-store-report