Chesapeake, VA – Today, Dollar Tree executives did not commit to meeting with a coalition of Dollar Tree stock owners and customers, nor did they answer their concerns about high levels of hazardous chemicals found in some of the discount retailer's products. The Campaign for Healthier Solutions, a coalition of public health and community groups, attended the company's shareholder meeting to urge the discount chain to do more to reduce customer's exposure to toxic chemicals, especially in communities already overburdened by toxic chemical exposure, and to share what they are doing with the public. Following the shareholder meeting, activists held a rally featuring large 'silly-straws' and costume jewelry - two product types tested by independent labs and found to contain toxic chemicals at potentially hazardous levels. The campaign, accompanied by about a dozen customers, also delivered 150,000 petition signatures gathered urging the chain to reduce or eliminate hazardous chemicals in products they sell. Other retail stores, such as Target, Walmart, and Costco, have set publicly available and more protective policies to limit toxic chemical exposure, but so far Dollar Tree has failed to follow suit. Campaign members noted that this inaction leaves Dollar Tree drifting further behind competitors in meeting consumer expectations for product safety.
Jose Bravo, Coordinator of the Campaign for Healthier Solutions said, "Today, unfortunately, Dollar Tree executives failed to acknowledge or address the obvious fact that consumers are deeply concerned about the safety of their products. They missed another opportunity to announce open and transparent chemical safety policies which could help restore consumer confidence in their brand. Until Dollar Tree acts, their customers who can't choose to buy healthier food, face overlapping chemical exposures from industry, or have no option but to bring home products which may make them sick - will continue to suffer health problems resulting from these exposures. Today, Dollar Tree could have taken steps to make this situation better, but instead, executives have chosen to continue taking advantage of it. Until Dollar Tree establishes publicly accountable and aggressive toxic chemical policies, they risk falling further behind their other stores and becoming a liability to their shareholders."
Although some discount retailers have taken specific, more aggressive actions to remove harmful products from their shelves, campaign representatives pointed out that Dollar Tree and Family Dollar (owned by Dollar Tree) have not yet adopted comprehensive, publicly available chemical disclosure or management policies. Other 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 demand. Dollar Tree and Family Dollar may now be lagging behind their competitors in offering safer products, and a comparison of the product safety policy sections in Dollar Tree’s 2013 and 2016 Sustainability Reports reveals they are almost word-for-word identical in language and content, with no substantial new actions or policies listed since 2013.
Tracy Gregoire, an advocate with the Learning Disabilities Association (LDA) of America said, "We've seen autism, ADHD and learning disabilities reach epidemic proportions - now affecting 1 in 5 children. We know lead - which was found in tablecloths and other products purchased at Dollar Tree - can cause permanent neurological harm, and there is no safe level of exposure for children. We also know phthalates - found in silly straws purchased at Dollar Tree - are linked to lower IQ and behavior challenges. Prenatal and early childhood exposure to hazardous substances like these can lead to life-long impacts and chronic health conditions. Because of the severity of this problem, LDA of America is working to eliminate the preventable causes of these diseases, including exposure to toxic chemicals - which may account for over a quarter of all developmental disabilities. Dollar Tree has both the opportunity and the responsibility, to become an industry leader by advancing strong and transparent safer chemical policies."
Product testing of items purchased at Dollar Tree locations revealed that many contained toxic chemicals at levels which may pose a threat to customers and their families. This independent laboratory testing found numerous products containing lead, phthalates, polyvinyl chloride, chromium, antimony, and other hazardous chemicals at levels above safety guidelines established by other retail chains or governing bodies. Further, recent testing (1, 2) found Bisphenol-A (BPA) in the liners of canned food purchased at Dollar Tree, which is known to leech into food. BPA is an endocrine-disrupting chemical contributing to breast and prostate cancer, type-2 diabetes, obesity, asthma, and other health problems. Community advocates asserted that it is especially important for dollar stores (including Dollar Tree) to take action on this issue because stores are often located in communities already face higher rates of toxic chemical exposure and overlapping pathways of exposure.
Pam Nixon, Director of People Concerned About Chemical Safety said, "I was born and raised in Charleston, West Virginia, and while I love my city, we certainly face a lot of challenges. Charleston is home to chemical manufacturing and fossil fuel companies - as well as their air pollution, contamination of our soil and water, and the brownfields and Superfund sites left behind by their predecessors. These sites, and their pollution, are often right next door to impoverished communities. We're a city that's infamous for one of the worst chemical spills in US history, but we also face air pollution and chemical contamination on a daily basis. It's no surprise that particular communities, especially Black, Brown and poor communities, often face health problems that can be linked to environmental contamination. These communities - in Charleston and across the nation - are dealing with higher rates of asthma, cancer, the impacts of lead exposure, and learning and developmental disabilities. Because we often don't have other shopping options, the fact that we're forced to bring toxic products into our homes in addition to the pollution we face every day is adding insult to injury. The communities served by dollar stores - and which support them - deserve safe and healthy products."
Campaign members pointed out that on top of hazardous chemicals found in household products, food sold at Dollar Tree may be contributing to health problems. In 'food deserts', communities often rely on dollar stores for their groceries - but fresh produce and healthy foods aren't usually available. Studies show that dollar stores make as much as 40% of their total sales in food products. Recent testing which shows the presence of BPA in many canned food liners is especially worrying, as canned food is among the healthier options commonly sold at Dollar Tree and other discount retailers. Perhaps, on top of other chemical exposures, food deserts are part of the reason these communities face higher rates of diabetes, heart disease and obesity -- all of which have been linked to BPA exposure.
Mily Trevino, an organizer with Lideres Campesinas, which advocates for farmworker communities, said, "It's ironic that many people growing our nation's food often must rely on dollar stores to put food on their own tables - and they aren't always selling fresh produce. Our communities in California's central valley already face many sources of exposure to toxic chemicals--including pesticides, drinking water contaminated by oil and gas operations, and diesel emissions. We believe that every child deserves an opportunity to grow up healthy and free of chemical exposures that might harm their health or limit their development. Unfortunately, some of the most over-exposed families often may not have any other option but to bring home toxic products and unhealthy food. It's time for dollar stores to do more; instead of only looking after their profits, Dollar Tree should become a supportive and equitable member of the communities they rely on. Our communities have given a lot to Dollar Tree - it's time Dollar Tree gave something back."
The Campaign for Healthier Solutions isn't calling for a boycott of these dollar stores, but instead organized today's actions to encourage the chains to follow Walmart, Target, and others in adopting corporate policies to identify and remove harmful chemicals from their stores. The campaign seeks to work with discount retailers to help them protect their customers and the communities in which they operate, and grow their businesses, by implementing corporate policies to identify and phase out harmful chemicals in the products they sell.
Full product testing results and methodology can be found here: http://www.ecocenter.org/healthy-stuff/reports/dollar-store-report
Photos and videos are available upon request.
The Campaign for Healthier Solutions is a diverse coalition of over 100 environmental justice, medical, public health, community, and women's organizations working with discount retailers toward responsible hazardous chemical policies and better corporate citizenship.
Jose Bravo; Director, Just Transition Alliance; National Coordinator, Campaign for Healthier Solutions; (619) 838-6694, firstname.lastname@example.org. Jose works with communities contaminated with chemicals, which occurs mostly where low income people of color are living, although everyone is at risk. Habla Espanol.