10 Toxic Items to Avoid at the Dollar Store at All Costs (10,000 pounds of lead contaminates item #6)

dollar general store

PHOTO: Flickr



If you have ever shopped in the Dollar Store, you might have questioned for a second: “Why is this so cheap?” The store is extremely popular not only with low-income families, but everyone. The young generations are trying to save on everything, especially when starting families without enough income to support them. And even those earning over $150,000 go to the Dollar Store for a bargain, market research shows.

As we all are about to find out, we are paying a higher price for these cheap items: we are paying it with our health.

No matter which dollar store you go to, Dollar General, Dollar Tree, or Family Dollar – the big three, the product quality is the same. Most of the items in these stores come from one place – a wholesale market in China. Because of common usage of toxic chemicals, cheap materials, and weak regulations in China, one can expect most of these products to be completely unhealthy. In fact, 81% of products tested by Healthy Stuff, a project of the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, contained at least one hazardous chemical above levels of concern. Almost half of the items contained more than one of these toxic chemicals.

Here are the worst of the worst toxic items that should never be purchased at the dollar store.

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1. Electronic accessories

The first group of items in this list is electronic accessories such as USB cords, cell phone chargers and extension cords. All of these tested very high in chlorine, a sure sign that these products are made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC). This PVC in turn is made from vinyl chloride, a carcinogenic chemical, which is responsible for poisoning factory workers and people living near these facilities. It is recommended to stick to electronics stores to buy electronics accessories.

2. Plastic kitchen utensils

Those black plastic spoons and spatulas? They are full of bromine, a component in some flame retardants. While their role is to prevent fires, these chemicals are linked to cancer, problems in brain development, and birth defects. These chemicals have been mostly banned or eliminated in U.S. manufacturing. Yet, they make their way into these cheap products because the manufacturer is using old recycled plastic contaminated with hazardous materials and chemicals.

It is best to buy stainless steel kitchen utensils instead.

3. Table Covers

Table covers that have a flannel backing have tested for high levels of lead, a neurotoxic heavy metal that lowers IQ, created behavioral problems in children, negatively affects fetuses, and can lead to lead poisoning. Another type of table covers has a different type of a health problem: they may be made from vinyl contain cancer-causing vinyl chloride. Instead of these disposable disasters, purchase a washable cloth cover that is non-toxic and can be reused for many years.

4. Silly Straws

Silly straws that so many children love have tested for high levels of phthalate DEHP, used to soften plastics. Many phthalates are linked to issues with the endocrine system, allergies, asthma type 2 diabetes, and cancer. This DEHP is especially dangerous in children, which is why they are not allowed in children’s products. Even though children use silly straws all the time, they are not classified as children’s products therefore can contain this toxin. Speaking of children…

Children’s jewelry contains one of the highest amounts of lead and other hazardous materials.



5. Children’s Jewelry

This discovery is especially heart-wrenching. Dollar stores sell a lot of metal and plastic colorful, glittery jewelry for children: cute little necklaces and size-adjustable rings, even earrings. All of these contain high amounts of lead, well exceeding the levels set by Consumer Product Safety Commission regulations. But be wary even of the products that “meet” the regulations, because there is no safe level for lead. It is incredibly toxic, and can not only harm the child, but may even kill a child if a piece of this jewelry is accidentally swallowed. Jewelry and many other products are never screened for toxins, so there is no way to know what kind of hazards are hiding in these products.

6. Christmas Decorations

Christmas decoration have tested for many toxins and these can be just as toxic coming from any stores. [Read the full story on Christmas ornaments]. Chemicals from these products seep into household dust that we breathe in, and this can lead to thyroid problems, memory issues, and a host of other health ailments. The safest way to decorate the house during the holidays is to make your own good, old-fashioned popcorn garlands and other handmade decorations.

7.Vinyl Floor Mats

Flexible floor mats are popular for the bathroom to avoid slipping on wet surface. The ones sold by dollar stores contain high level of both phthalates and chlorine, which together lead to a host of health problems and affect multiple parts of the body. Jeff Gearhart of Healthy Stuff recommends completely avoiding buying any products that have the word “vinyl” on the label, especially from dollar stores.

8. Metallic Bead Garlands

The Mardi Gras bead necklaces test high in bromine, most likely due to being made from old recycled plastic. While recycling products is usually a good thing, it is not in this case. Old plastic can be contaminated with toxic and even banned chemicals, and no one screens them for these hazards. Gearhart has estimated that an annual inventory of Mardi Grass bead necklaces contain up to 900,000 pounds of the toxic flame retardants and 10,000 pounds of lead.

9. Holiday Lights

Just like holiday ornaments, holiday lights are another source of hazardous toxins. These often contain chlorine and bromine, both linked to cancers and thyroid dysfunctions. These chemicals end up in the household dust, and we might end up breathing it in and even ingesting them when the dust ends up on the hands. When buying these lights, look for the RoHS-compliant label.

10. Removable Window and Wall Stickers

Dollar stores sell many colorful, even sometimes life-size, photo room decorations of sports stars, cartoons characters, holiday images, and versatile images such as of flowers. These can be stuck to a window or the wall, and can be very tempting to use as an easy way to decorate a room. Easy, however, does not mean safe. Most of these contain PVC, which the American Public Health Association has named one of the most hazardous plastics. They urge consumers to stop buying PVC-containing products.

Take Action

So far the CEOs of the top dollar store chains have refused to do anything about the toxins in their products, even though they have been and are being pressured to do so by parents, health advocates, and wellness experts.

American Actress Jennifer Beals, best known for 1983’s Flashdance, raises awareness of this issue in her campaign for healthier solutions.

“I’m fortunate that I can choose to shop at different stores,” she said, “but many dollar store customers don’t have that luxury.”

Add your voice to tell the big the big three’s CEOs to stop selling toxic products, a message created by Moms Clean Air Force, a community fighting for children’s health.

RECOMMENDED READING: Problems with Chinese Products

Top 10 Toxic Fake Food Items Produced In China

Fake “Organic” Food From China is FLOODING Store Shelves. Here’s What You Need to Know

The Sobering Truth About Imported Chicken From China You’re Not Being Told

81 Percent of Dollar Store Products Tested Contain Chemicals Linked to Learning Disabilities, Cancer… And More

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