Health Experts, Scientists, and Concerned Parents Fly in from Across the Nation to Urge Discount Retail Chains 'Dollar Tree' and 'Family Dollar' to to Phase Out Lead, Phthalates, and Other Toxic Chemicals Found in its Products
March 11, 2016. Albuquerque, NM – Today, a coalition of consumers, concerned parents, health experts and scientists held two large demonstrations at the South Valley locations of 'Dollar Tree' and 'Family Dollar', where they presented a petition signed by over 150,000 people urging the discount retail chains to phase out toxic chemicals from their products. These demonstrations follow recent independent laboratory testing which found potentially dangerous levels of lead, phthalates, chlorine, and other hazardous substances in a large number of children's toys and household items purchased from these stores. These substances are linked to serious health impacts including cancer, developmental disabilities, asthma and birth defects. Despite these findings, Dollar Tree and Family Dollar have failed to take any public action to protect their customers.
"Dollar Tree and Family Dollar -- your products are toxic and your silence is deafening," said Jose Bravo, with The Campaign for Healthier Solutions. He continued: "After independent testing showed that pencil pouches, earrings and other products bought at your stores contained dangerous amounts of lead, which can cause lower IQ's and learning disabilities in children. Even worse, these dollar stores are often located in Latino and Black communities--who's children already face some of the highest levels of lead poisoning in the nation. Learning disabilities caused by lead in products are an environmental injustice that no parent wants their children to face."
Martha Arguello, executive director of Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles, said; “We are deeply concerned about the toxic chemicals in the products sold by Dollar Tree and Family Dollar.” She continued; “Many of these stores serve low-income and people-of-color communities who already face unacceptable levels of environmental risks. We need retailers to show some social responsibility for the health of their customers and communities by ensuring the products they sell are free from toxic chemicals that end up in our bodies, land fills, water, and our very soil that gives us our food.”
The chemicals of concern found in 81% of products tested from the nation's largest discount retailers include: phthalates, linked to birth defects, reduced fertility, cancer, learning disabilities, diabetes, and other health issues; polyvinyl chloride plastic (PVC or vinyl), which 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 other serious health impacts, especially in children.
"I traveled all the way from Houston to be a part of this action and represent my community—which is already overburdened with toxic emissions from industries that produce chemicals similar to the ones found in products from Dollar Tree and Family Dollar," said Yudith Nieto, who works with Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (t.e.j.a.s.). She continued; “As a young woman who has yet to have children, I worry that all these chemicals found in our air and in the products we purchase will affect my body and my unborn child.”
This demonstration and petition delivery was organized by The Campaign for Healthier Solutions (a coalition of over 140 environmental justice, public health, business, community, and women's organizations) after a recent report found that 81% of dollar store products tested contained chemicals linked to cancer, diabetes, and developmental disabilities. The petition, which was endorsed by actress Jennifer Beals and hosted on Change.org, quickly gained tens of thousands of signatures over the last several months. This demonstration and signature delivery was held in conjunction with petition deliveries and other events in several states across the nation.
Tracy Gregoire, who works with the Learning Disabilities Association of Maine said "Today, we told Family Dollar and Dollar Tree that they have the power, and the responsibility, to tell their suppliers to get toxic chemicals out of their products. It's unacceptable to knowingly sell products which contain toxic chemicals linked to learning disabilities and other health issues.”
Combined, discount chain retailers have sales totaling over $36 billion and operate more stores nationally than Walmart. Many communities of color and low-income families have no other choice but to shop at stores such as Dollar Tree and Family Dollar, and given the toxic chemicals found in dollar store products these communities are unable to avoid exposure.
"Most of these stores are found in low income communities and communities of color, which means that often they are the only place we can shop,” said Bahati Ansari, who works with Los Jardines Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She continued; “However, we still deserve items that are healthy and safe for our community. I want to encourage dollar stores like Dollar Tree and Family Dollar to sit down and talk with us about how we can work together and find safe, nontoxic products to sell in our communities. This is could be a win-win for the dollar stores and the communities they serve.”
Data compiled by public interest researchers in 2014 shows discount retailers’ core customer base (42%) is lower-income people who make less than $30,000 a year (report, pg 14). Forty percent (40%) of customers rely on public assistance of some type. And residents in these communities often have reduced access to quality medical care, fresh and healthy food, and public services, which are critical to overall health and to withstanding chemical exposures. In many of these communities, dollar stores are the only store selling household goods, including food. Forty percent (40%) of sales at dollar stores go toward food products—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, disrupted puberty and heart disease.
These factors often compound, leading communities of color and low-income families to experience disproportionate rates of learning disabilities and other health impacts. The demonstrators noted that because of their importance to these disproportionately impacted communities, dollar stores should be held to a higher level of responsibility to ensure they are not selling products which contain harmful chemicals that further endanger people of color and low-income communities.
Gregg Suzanne McAllister, who works with People Concerned About Chemical Safety in Charleston, WV, and is the director of Mothers of Diversity America emphasized the exploitative dynamics of the corporation's indifference to evidence that toxic chemicals have been detected in many products they sell. She said “They have an opportunity to respond to reports about toxic chemicals in their products before 'regulations' force them to comply.” She continued; “Getting ahead of this is a proactive measure that would be good for business. It would show they care about the welfare of the communities they serve and the employees who handle their products.”
Although some discount retailers (such as Target and Walmart) have taken specific actions to remove harmful products from their shelves or test some of their products, Dollar Tree and Family Dollar have not adopted comprehensive, publicly available chemical disclosure or management policies. The Campaign for Healthier Solutions isn't calling for a boycott of these dollar stores, but instead organized today's demonstrations to encourage the chains to follow Walmart, Target, Staples, 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 testing results and methodology can be found here: http://www.ecocenter.org/healthy-stuff/reports/dollar-store-report
Photos available upon request.
Although a recent report from The Campaign for Healthier Solutions found that 81% of dollar store products tested contained chemicals linked to cancer, developmental disabilities, and other serious health issues, the nation's largest discount retailers have yet to adopt open corporate policies to identify and remove harmful chemicals from products sold in their stores (as other major retailers such as Walmart, Target, and Staples have already done). The chemicals of concern found in dollar store products tested include: phthalates, linked to birth defects, reduced fertility, cancer, learning disabilities, diabetes, and other health issues; polyvinyl chloride plastic (PVC or vinyl), which has been linked to asthma; and toxic metals such as lead, which harms brain development, leading to learning disabilities, lower IQ, and other health impacts, especially in children.
This press conference was organized by The Campaign for Healthier Solutions, a coalition of over 100 diverse environmental justice, medical, public health, community, and women's organizations, and similar events are being held across the country this week. The campaign recently released a video starring Jennifer Beals to educate the public about the threat of toxic chemicals in dollar store products. The campaign also sent a letter to the CEOs of Dollar Tree and Family Dollar to offer assistance and ask for a meeting to discuss these issues, but has yet to receive any response.
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.
Richard Moore; Los Jardines Institute; Co-Chair, Environmental Justice and Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform; (505) 301-0276, email@example.com. Richard can talk about environmental justice issues and organizing in the Southwest, and TSCA reform. Habla Espanol.