Scary Probe of Dollar Stores Finds Toxic Ingredients in Popular Family Products

pregnant mom shopping for toys with daughter

We all want to save money, but how much are we willing to risk our health to get a bargain? That's the burning question anyone who has ever shopped at a dollar store will need to ask herself, in light of a troubling new report from the Campaign for Healthier Solutions -- a group of over 100 health, community, and environmental justice organizations around the country -- that found over 81 percent of products from dollar stores (Dollar General, Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, and 99 Cents Only) contained toxic chemicals.


Clearly, this is deeply concerning for many consumers, especially moms who are frequenting -- or even occasionally -- patronizing dollar stores. But for some, it may not actually be, well, news.

"I have known this for years," says Jenn M. from Angleton, Texas. "I take care in what I buy when at a dollar store."

Others aren't going to be so quick to let the report deter them from their regular routine. "I refuse to live my life in fear of everything around me," says Amber C. from North Carolina. "There are hazardous chemicals all around us, and I will not live in a bubble."

Ann W. from Jackson, Michigan, feels similarly. "I will still go to the dollar store in my area," she says. "Normally, the things I get there are the same products that I would buy elsewhere, but at a better price."

That said, she has one caveat: "I tend not to buy toys from there, since I already know they are cheap and will fall apart quickly," she explains.

But it's not just toys that the report found may be hazardous to consumers' health.

Several products, which for the most part aren't regulated as children's products but could end up in kids' hands or mouths, contained levels of lead above the limit for children's products. Two products (one of which might be considered a children’s product) contained levels of lead 10 times and 65 times the limit for children’s products.

As moms well know, heavy metals like lead could impair brain development, leading to learning disabilities, lower IQ, and cause other serious health impacts, especially in kids.

Meanwhile, the toxic plastic PVC (vinyl) -- linked to asthma and lung effects -- was found in 38 percent of products tested; 32 percent of those vinyl products had concerning levels of phthalates -- linked to birth defects, reduced fertility, cancer, learning disabilities, diabetes, etc. -- above what the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) limits in children's products.

More from The Stir: 12 Things in Your Household That Could Be Killing Your Kid

Among the most toxic overall: Earrings, headbands, silly straws, a vinyl floor runner, a steering wheel cover, a flannel back tablecloth, dog tags, a pencil pouch, an adult poncho, and bath toys (including bathtub fingerpaint!). Here's what a few of the biggest offenders look like:

earrings dollar store

spiderman dog tags dollar store

pencil case dollar store

headband dollar store

Here's the full list of the 164 products and findings.

What's so frightening is that these products all seem so innocent. You might not even think twice about them being safe for you or your child.

And no matter where you stand on the issue, it's frustrating to think that safety, at least in this case, might be squarely on the consumer's shoulders.

That's why the Campaign for Healthier Solutions is taking a stand by asking discount stores to immediately remove children's products found to contain regulated phthalates and lead from store shelves and that the government ensure that dollar stores comply with all relevant laws and regulations.

But it's up to families and communities to make a difference as well, by signing the campaign's petition to let these chains know you deserve safer products. Because safety's something we're all entitled to, even if we're shopping on the cheap.

How do you feel about these findings? Do they affect how you'll shop?


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