Discount stores

Harmful chemicals found in toys and canned foods at US discount stores | SPFA

An alarming number of products purchased from US dollar stores, including many children’s toys, contain harmful chemicals, according to a report published today.

Researchers tested 226 products purchased from five popular retailers for chemicals, including phthalates and lead, and found that 120, or more than half, contained at least one chemical of concern. Among the products that tested positive were colorful baby toys and Disney-themed headphones.

“As a parent, I should be able to buy a product without expecting to poison my child,” said Jose Bravo, national coordinator of the Campaign for Healthier Solutions, a coalition that calls on dollar stores to phase out hazardous chemicals in their products.

The tests found chemicals like lead and phthalates, which are associated with higher rates of childhood cancer. They also found products like polyvinyl chloride (PVC) false teeth, which may contain endocrine disruptors and may harm reproductive and cognitive development. Children are particularly vulnerable to low-level exposure found in bottles, toys, appliances and personal care products.

“There are known substitutes for these hormone-disrupting chemical hazards,” said Jeff Gearhart, research director of the Ecology Center Healthy Stuff Lab, the group that tested the products. “The fact that they continue to be used in these low-priced dollar store products is a real problem.”

A graph showing the number of dollar store products tested and including one or more chemicals of concern.

Canned foods have also tested positive for these potentially harmful chemicals, which have been found to be coated in BPA, an endocrine disruptor that can leach into foods and drinks. Nonstick cookware and popcorn wrappers had the presence of PFAS, the waterproof “eternal chemical” that has been linked to numerous health effects, including cancer, thyroid disease and liver damage. The microwaveable popcorn packaging also tested positive for PFAS.

Additionally, paper receipts from all five retailers tested positive for bisphenol S, a BPA analogue found in thermal paper and plastics.

At 34,000, there are more dollar stores in the United States than Walmarts, and they generally sell inexpensive goods that are mass-produced overseas. They are generally concentrated in low-income areas and communities of color, and they remain an affordable option for groceries, household items, and other goods, especially when consumer prices rise due to the inflation.

“Everyone should have access to healthier, less dangerous products and it shouldn’t depend on what you can afford,” Gearhart said.

The two largest chains, Dollar General and Dollar Tree, have chemical policies that ban certain toxic chemicals, including lead and BPA in children’s products. The federal government bans phthalates in children’s toys and childcare products, but experts say protections should extend to all kinds of items.

“If a child gets their hands on a product, it becomes a children’s product whether or not it meets the regulatory definition,” Gearhart said, referring to Disney character-adorned headphones that tested positive for the drug. lead, phthalates and phosphates. An inexpensive pair of headphones, even if not considered a toy, is still something kids can put on their heads and chew on the wires, he said.

Bravo says the companies don’t have the ability to test every product sold, adding that the federal government only steps in when someone gets sick or dies. One such case is Johnson & Johnson’s withdrawal of its talc-based baby powder from the United States and Canada in 2020 after asbestos was found in the product.

“Manufacturers and retailers need to step up because there are gaps in the regulatory system,” says Gearhart.