The 10 Most Toxic Items at the Dollar Store

The low price is NOT worth your health.

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When it comes to safety, dollar-store deals might not be a bargain after all. found that 81% contained one or more chemicals that could be hazardous to your health.
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1. Electronic Accessories
Extension cords, USB charging cords and cell phone charger cables from dollar stores , a sign that the items were made with a plastic called polyvinyl chloride, or PVC. PVC is made from vinyl chloride, a close to the factories. Pick up these accessories from electronics stores instead.
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2. Plastic Kitchen Utensils
Those black slotted spoons and spatulas may contain high levels of bromine, a component in brominated flame retardants, or BFRs. Though these are added to make the products resistant to fire, they've been linked to , and have been banned or phased out in the U.S. So what are they doing in kitchen utensils? Suppliers are likely substituting cheap, hazardous recycled content – probably – for virgin plastic. Products made with such recycled plastic can be contaminated with BFRs, and our regulatory system misses them. Instead, choose stainless steel.
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3. Flannel-Backed Table Covers
Protecting your table from scratches and stains, these bright, reusable covers seem like a good way to add a festive feel to your feast. But recent testing uncovered high levels of lead, a . It can reduce IQ and cause behavioral problems. Vinyl tablecloths aren't a good alternative, because they're made with cancer-causing vinyl chloride. Instead, look for a reusable, washable cloth table cover or a disposable paper or plastic one.
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4. Metallic Christmas Garlands
Saving on once-a-year items makes . But these have tested high in bromine, indicating that some are made with recycled plastics containing BFRs. These can seep into , possibly causing . In general, clear and translucent plastics don't have the hazardous recycled content, so look for see-through garlands or paper varieties, or make your own out of good old popcorn and cranberries.
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5. Silly Straws
These have tested high for levels of DEHP, a phthalate (pronounced "thal-ate") , usually to soften brittle plastics. Some phthalates interfere with the body's endocrine system, and studies have linked phthalate exposure to asthma and allergies, prostate and testicular cancer and type 2 diabetes. Six phthalates, including DEHP, have been restricted in children's products – but silly straws aren't technically children's products, so they can legally contain high levels of DEHP.
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6. Vinyl Floor Coverings
Flexible, adhesive bath mats from dollar stores have tested high in both phthalates and chlorine. Jeff Gearhart, research director of , is especially concerned about the impact of phthalates because they're used in so many different products. "Exposures are from multiple sources and affect multiple ," he says. He recommends avoiding products that have the word "vinyl" on the label.
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7. Holiday Light Strings
Handling such products as you style your tree could spread toxic dust to your hands, and then you might ingest it. Hard to swallow, considering the high levels of chlorine and bromine (and therefore PVC and flame-retardant chemicals) in these have been linked to cancer and . When buying holiday lights, check the tag to make sure they are RoHS-compliant. ( that limits some flame retardants in electronics).
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8. Metal Children's Jewelry
All that glitters is not safe: Recent tests showed earrings from dollar stores with high lead levels, exceeding . Lead can leach out of jewelry when children suck or scratch it, and ingesting even tiny amounts of the heavy metal can harm children's brain development. Since most products never get screened for toxins, and can slip through even when they surpass federal safety standards, skip jewelry like this completely.
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9. Metallic Beads
Mardi Gras may mean Fat Tuesday, but throw in some dollar-store garlands, and it's Toxic Tuesday instead. These necklaces tested high in bromine, indicating that . Gearhart has estimated that "a single year's inventory of Mardi Gras beads may contain up to 900,000 pounds of hazardous flame retardants and 10,000 pounds of lead." Unless you are partying in the French Quarter, just say no to metallic beads.
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10. Window Clings and Removable Wall Stickers
Whether life-size photos of favorite sports stars or colorful holiday graphics, don't be tempted to redecorate your children's walls or windows with these. They tend to contain PVC, which the American Public Health Association has called "among the most hazardous of plastic materials" and from homes, schools, hospitals and daycare centers. Discount retailers can do better – for safer products, requiring their suppliers to phase out the most harmful chemicals – but so far to get toxic chemicals off their shelves. about toxic chemicals in their products? to let the CEOs of Dollar Tree, Family Dollar and Dollar General know what you think.
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