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The 10 Most Toxic Items at Dollar Stores

January 11, 2016

Country Living
By Molly Rauch
Original article here

When it comes to safety, dollar-store deals might not be a bargain after all. Recent testing of their products found that 81% contained one or more hazardous chemicals. The tests, conducted by the consumer testing group Healthy Stuff, found chemicals associated with cancer, obesity, diabetes, asthma, thyroid and kidney diseases, learning problems, lower IQ, birth defects and early puberty. Here are 10 items you’re better off buying elsewhere.

1. Electronic Accessories


Extension cords, USB charging cords and cell phone charger cables from dollar stores tested high in chlorine, a sign that the items were made with a plastic called polyvinyl chloride, or PVC. PVC is made from vinyl chloride, a cancer-causing chemical that has harmed workers and contaminated communities close to the factories. Pick up these accessories from electronics stores instead.

2. Plastic Kitchen Utensils


Those black slotted spoons and spatulas may contain high levels of bromine, a component in brominated flame retardants, or BFRs. Though these are added to make the products resistant to fire, they’ve been linked to cancer, birth defects and impaired brain development, and have been banned or phased out in the U.S. So what are they doing in kitchen utensils? Suppliers are likely substituting cheap, hazardous recycled content–probably from old electronics–for virgin plastic. Products made with such recycled plastic can be contaminated with BFRs, and our regulatory system misses them. Instead, choose stainless steel.

3. Flannel-Backed Table Covers


Protecting your table from scratches and stains, these bright, reusable covers seem like a good way to add a festive feel to your feast. But recent testing uncovered high levels of lead, aneurotoxic metal that is especially harmful to fetuses and children. It can reduce IQ and cause behavioral problems. Vinyl tablecloths aren’t a good alternative, because they’re made with cancer-causing vinyl chloride. Instead, look for a reusable, washable cloth table cover or a disposable paper or plastic one.

4. Metallic Christmas Garlands


Saving on once-a-year items makes good financial sense. But these have tested high in bromine, indicating that some are made with recycled plastics containing BFRs. These can seep into household dust, possibly causingthyroid problems, memory impairment and other health issues. In general, clear and translucent plastics don’t have the hazardous recycled content, so look for see-through garlands or paper varieties, or make your own out of good old popcorn and cranberries.

5. Silly Straws


These have tested high for levels of DEHP, a phthalate (pronounced “thal-ate”) used widely in consumer products, usually to soften brittle plastics. Some phthalates interfere with the body’s endocrine system, and studies have linked phthalate exposure to asthma and allergies, prostate and testicular cancer and type 2 diabetes. Six phthalates, including DEHP, have been restricted in children’s products–but silly straws aren’t technically children’s products, so they can legally contain high levels of DEHP.

6. Vinyl Floor Coverings


Flexible, adhesive bath mats from dollar stores have tested high in both phthalates and chlorine. Jeff Gearhart, research director ofHealthy Stuff, is especially concerned about the impact of phthalates because they’re used in so many different products. “Exposures are from multiple sources and affect multiple parts of our bodies,” he says. He recommends avoiding products that have the word “vinyl” on the label.

7. Holiday Light Strings


Handling such products as you style your tree could spread toxic dust to your hands, and then you might ingest it. Hard to swallow, considering the high levels of chlorine and bromine (and therefore PVC and flame-retardant chemicals) in these have been linked to cancer and thyroid problems. When buying holiday lights, check the tag to make sure they are RoHS-compliant. (“Restriction of Hazardous Substances” is a European toxics standard that limits some flame retardants in electronics).

8. Metal Children’s Jewelry


All that glitters is not safe: Recent tests showed earrings from dollar stores with high lead levels, exceeding Consumer Product Safety Commission regulations. Lead can leach out of jewelry when children suck or scratch it, and ingesting even tiny amounts of the heavy metal can harm children’s brain development. Since most products never get screened for toxins, and can slip through even when they surpass federal safety standards, skip jewelry like this completely.

9. Metallic Beads


Mardi Gras may mean Fat Tuesday, but throw in some dollar-store garlands, and it’s Toxic Tuesday instead. These necklaces tested high in bromine, indicating that recycled plastic was probably the filler ingredient for the beads. Gearhart has estimated that “a single year’s inventory of Mardi Gras beads may contain up to 900,000 pounds of hazardous flame retardants and 10,000 pounds of lead.” Unless you are partying in the French Quarter, just say no to metallic beads.

10. Window Clings and Removable Wall Stickers


Whether life-size photos of favorite sports stars or colorful holiday graphics, don’t be tempted to redecorate your children’s walls or windows with these. They tend to contain PVC, which the American Public Health Association has called “among the most hazardous of plastic materials” and urges action to phase out the material from homes, schools, hospitals and daycare centers.

Discount retailers can do better–Walmart and Target are responding to consumer demand for safer products, requiring their suppliers to phase out the most harmful chemicals–but so far top dollar store CEOs haven’t responded to requeststo get toxic chemicals off their shelves. What should dollar stores do about toxic chemicals in their products? Click here to let the CEOs of Dollar Tree, Family Dollar and Dollar General know what you think.


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