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Time for Dollar Tree to step up and rid its shelves of harmful chemicals

Posted by Kathy Attar, MPH on December 6, 2016

When my daughter was young she put everything in her mouth, as most babies and toddlers do. I mean everything — toys, clothes, books, anything that fit. For her first birthday, there is a picture of her biting a shiny plastic book with a super-wide grin.

During this time, through my work as an environmental health advocate, I was starting to learn about the dangers to our health of certain chemicals in consumer products. I remember when my daughter first started eating solid food and I attempted to buy spoons and bowls that did not have BPA or other harmful chemicals in them. I went to the dollar store in my neighborhood. They unfortunately did not carry BPA-free or phthalate free options.

Every day, children and adults are exposed to a variety of chemicals found in common household items. A growing body of research suggests that many of these chemicals — which are used in plastics, personal care and cleaning products — may pose a threat to our health. The toxic chemicals found in dollar store products have been linked to learning and developmental disabilities, asthma, cancer, and other health problems. 

Exposure to harmful chemicals is disproportionately greater among children in communities of color and low-income communities — a fact that raises serious concerns about environmental injustice. Not everyone has stores in their communities which may sell less toxic products. And not everyone can afford less-toxic products. 

The statistics reflect an increase in chronic conditions connected to toxic chemicals: Diagnoses of developmental disorders in children have grown to 1 in 6, and childhood leukemia has increased by 55% between 1975 and 2011.

If the goal is to protect all communities and families, dollar stores must step up their efforts to phase out and ban toxic chemicals from their shelves.

The call to reduce risk became more urgent and real for me last October, when I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma, a form of breast cancer. Fortunately, the cancer was diagnosed in the earlier stages and my long-term prognosis is good. Many women — especially low-income and women of color — aren't diagnosed until their cancer is advanced. The disparity in mortality rates between white women and African American and Latina women reveals this.

While I will never know what "caused" my cancer, exposure to environmental pollutants more likely than not played a role in the onset of my disease. Ultimately we need policy change that, by keeping toxic chemicals out of our products and our lives, can reduce the risk of chronic diseases for all families and individuals, across the board. Until such an overhaul occurs, our children and families will remain test subjects.

My daughter, now seven, joined me last Thursday as I delivered a letter to the local Dollar Tree store. PSR as a partner of the Campaign for Healthier Solutions is asking Dollar Tree to adopt an open and accountable corporate policy to remove toxic chemicals from the products they sell.

Will you join us in calling on dollar stores to act? You can deliver a letter to your own local Dollar Tree, call the headquarters of 99-Cents Only or Dollar General, or simply learn more about these dangerous chemicals. Click here to take action.

For all of us and our children, thanks!

(P.S. Don't worry that the focused campaign date has passed. Your action is still timely and useful!) 

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