New Report Finds 81% of Dollar Store Products
Tested Contain One or More Hazardous Chemicals Linked to Learning Disabilities, Cancer & Other Serious Illnesses
South Carolina Small Business Chamber Supports Call for Dollar Stores to Protect Low-Income Families and Workers from Toxic Products
The S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce has asked state budget writers to provide $15 million to fund Governor Nikki Haley’s initiative to train South Carolinians to take skilled jobs. According to SCDEW there are 144,000 unemployed in the state yet there are 64,000 jobs available. Finding workers with the needed skills is part of the problem the state faces.
However, training some of the rural unemployed or underemployed might be difficult to the degree that adults and children in these communities are being exposed to toxic chemicals that limit their ability to learn and be healthy.
The Campaign for Healthier Solutions – a group of over 100 health, community, and environmental justice organizations around the country – released a report today about toxic chemicals found in Dollar store products. The report — A Day Late and a Dollar Short: Discount Retailers are Falling Behind on Safer Chemicals – includes testing results for 164 dollar store products such as toys, jewelry, school supplies and other household items, that found over 81% (133 of 164) contained at least one hazardous chemical above levels of concern.
The campaign also sent a letter today to the CEO’s of the four largest Dollar store chains — including Family Dollar (tentatively acquired by Dollar Tree on January 22), Dollar Tree, Dollar General, and 99 Cents Only – urging them to stop the sale of products with hazardous chemicals to communities of color and low-income families, who already live in more polluted areas and “food deserts,” and adopt policies that will protect both customers and their businesses. Combined these discount chains have sales totaling over $36 billion and operate more stores nationally than Walmart.
“The adult consumers of dollar stores are also the employees or potential employees of businesses in their communities,” said Frank Knapp Jr., president and CEO of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce. “To the degree that the products sold in these stores are not in compliance with federal regulations and contain toxic chemicals, these stores are contributing to unhealthy workers, decreasing the ability of adults to be trained for skilled positions and lowering employee productivity for local businesses.”
The chemicals of concern found in Dollar store products tested for this report include: phthalates, linked to birth defects, reduced fertility, cancer, learning disabilities, diabetes, and other health issues; polyvinyl chloride plastic (PVC or vinyl), which creates hazards throughout its life cycle and has been linked to asthma and lung effects; and toxic metals such as lead, which harms brain development, leading to learning disabilities, lower IQ, and cause other serious health impacts, especially in children.
Other key findings from A Day Late and a Dollar Short include:
- 49% of products tested (80 of 164) contained two or more hazardous chemicals above levels of concern;
- 38% of the products tested (63 of 164) contained the toxic plastic PVC (vinyl);
- 32% of a subset of vinyl products tested for phthalates (12 of 38) contained levels of phthalates above the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) limit for children’s products.In addition, 40% of sales at Dollar stores go toward food products (not tested for this report) – much of which is highly processed with low nutritional quality, and whose packaging is another potential source of toxic chemicals including bisphenol-A (BPA), a synthetic hormone linked to breast and others cancers, reproductive problems, obesity, early puberty and heart disease.
In addition, 40% of sales at Dollar stores go toward food products (not tested for this report) – much of which is highly processed with low nutritional quality, and whose packaging is another potential source of toxic chemicals including bisphenol-A (BPA), a synthetic hormone linked to breast and others cancers, reproductive problems, obesity, early puberty and heart disease.
Fortunately, there is a growing movement by mainstream retail and manufacturing brands – including Target and Walmart – to respond to consumer demand for safer products with publicly-available corporate policies that identify, disclose, and replace priority toxic chemicals with safer alternatives. By failing to address toxic chemicals through comprehensive policies, Dollar chains are not only putting their customers at risk, they are exposing their businesses to the fate of companies like Mattel, which lost 18% of its value after recalling toys with lead paint, and Sigg USA, which went bankrupt after failing to disclose toxic BPA in its water bottles.
“Companies that are phasing out toxic chemicals are reducing the risk of fines, lost revenue from a damaged brand and lost market share from being associated with toxic chemicals. In addition to helping themselves, these companies are also improving the health of their customers who work at other local businesses, thus increasing the productivity of the entire local economy,” said Mr. Knapp, who also serves as Co-Chair of the American Sustainable Business Council Action Fund. “In other words, replacing toxic chemicals with safer alternatives is not only a good thing to do for the company; it’s also the right thing to do for improving the health of customers, the local economy and the environment.”
The Campaign for Healthier Solutions is asking for a comprehensive set of reforms, including that:
- Discount Retailers immediately remove children’s products found to contain regulated phthalates and lead from store shelves; and adopt comprehensive corporate chemical management policies to identify, disclose, and remove hazardous chemicals from their supply chains and from all products in their stores, beginning with their house brands.
- Local, State, and Federal Governments ensure that discount retailers comply with all relevant laws and regulations; and adopt public policies (such as Maine’s Kid-Safe Products Law and Washington’s Children’s Safe Products Act) that require manufacturers and retailers to disclose hazardous chemicals in products, research alternatives, and remove hazardous chemicals when alternatives are available, effective, and safer.
- Families and Communities let Dollar store chains know that they want safer products, and join local and national efforts advocating for nontoxic products
The Campaign for Healthier Solutions is led by Coming Clean and the Environmental Justice and Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform. Participating organizations include: Breast Cancer Fund, Center for Environmental Health, Clean and Healthy New York, Clean Production Action, Clean Water Action, Coming Clean, Greenpeace, Healthy Building Network, Learning Disabilities Association of America, Lideres Campesinas, Los Jardines Institute, Moms Clean Air Force, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services, Women’s Voices for the Earth.