Friday, September 2, 2022

Toxic chemicals commonly found in dollar store items, testing shows

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Toxic chemicals commonly found in dollar store items, testing shows

Wed, August 31, 2022

OTTAWA — A Canadian environmental organization is calling for more transparency and better enforcement of national regulations of toxic chemicals after more than one quarter of items bought at popular dollar stores tested positive for substances such as lead.

The Environmental Defence report is based on an analysis of dozens of products, including electronics, toys, canned food and microwave popcorn.

Among the chief concerns is that the Canadian Environmental Protection Act currently only limits the level of toxic substances in what is considered the outwardly "accessible" part of a product.

The solder inside some earbuds and toys tested positive for lead levels 8,000 times above the maximum amount that is allowed on the outside of the items.

Environmental Defence's toxics program manager Cassie Barker says a product can be broken or worn down, so the limits should apply to the whole thing instead of just the parts that are accessible when it is brand new.

Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault says he will read the report and is open to making changes to the act, which is already in the midst of a legislative update that will be debated in the House of Commons this fall.

Harmful chemicals found in toys and canned food at US discount stores

This article is more than 4 months old

Among the products that tested positive for chemicals were colorful baby toys, as well as canned foods and non-stick cookware

Three of the items purchased at dollar stores containing at least one chemical of concern.
Three of the items purchased at dollar stores containing at least one chemical of concern

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

Researchers tested 226 products purchased at five popular retailers for chemicals, including phthalates and lead, and found that 120, or more than half, had 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 at the Campaign for Healthier Solutions, a coalition that calls on dollar stores to phase out hazardous chemicals from their products.

The tests found chemicals like lead and phthalates, which is associated with higher rates of childhood cancer. They also found products like fake teeth that were made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which can contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals and can harm reproductive and cognitive development. Children are especially 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 Ecology Center Healthy Stuff Lab, the group which tested the products. “The fact that they continue to be used in these low cost products that dollar stores sell is a real problem.”

Also testing positive for these potentially harmful chemicals were canned foods, which were found to have BPA coating, an endocrine disruptor that can leach into food and drinks. Non-stick cookware and popcorn packaging had presence of PFAS, the waterproof “forever chemical” that has been associated with wide ranging health effects, including cancer, thyroid disease, and liver damage. The packaging of microwavable popcorn also tested positive for PFAS.

In addition, paper receipts from all five retailers tested positive for bisphenol S, an analog of BPA present in thermal paper and plastics.

At 34,000, there are more dollar stores in the US than Walmarts, and they usually sell inexpensive, mass produced goods from 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, particularly as consumer prices rise due to inflation.

“Everybody should have access to healthier, lower-hazard products and it shouldn’t depend on what you can afford,” Gearhart said.

The two biggest chains, Dollar General and Dollar Tree, have adopted chemicals policies that ban certain toxic chemicals, including lead and BPA in children’s products. The federal government prohibits phthalates in children’s toys and child care products, but experts say protections should extend to all manner 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,” said Gearhart, referencing headphones adorned with Disney characters which tested positive for lead, phthalates and phosphates. A cheap pair of headphones, even though it’s not considered a toy, is still something that kids can put on their head and chew on the wires, he said.

Bravo says that businesses don’t have the capacity to test every product sold, adding that the federal government only intervenes when someone gets sick or dies. One such case is the Johnson & Johnson withdrawal of its talc-based baby powder from US 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,” Gearhart says.

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