Hazardous Chemicals at Discount Retailers Affecting Black and Latino Youth: Study
Chemicals emitted from older furniture and dollar store products can cause serious health problems, most often affecting children from black and Latino households.
In the past, small-sample studies from University of California-Berkeley, Duke University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have stated that Latino and Black children are born with, or later absorb, twice the level of blood contamination as non-Latino white children. While scientists aren't exactly sure why, dollar stores nationwide have not helped the situation. According to a report published by the Campaign for Healthier Solutions in February, 81 percent of dollar store products tested contain one or more hazardous chemicals, which can be linked to learning disabilities, cancer and other serious illnesses.
"A Day Late and a Dollar Short" showed the results of testing nearly 200 products, including toys, jewelry, school supplies and other household items. Dollar Tree, Dollar General, and 99 Cents Only were contacted by the research authors, and they were urged to stop the sale of products with hazardous chemicals to low-income communities and communities of color, who already live in "food deserts." Approximately, 40 percent of sales at dollar stores go toward food products (not tested for the report) and they're often highly processed with low nutritional quality. Also, the packaging is another potential source of toxic chemicals including bisphenol-A (BPA), a synthetic hormone linked to breast and others cancers, obesity, reproductive problems, heart disease and early puberty.
Those companies were also asked to adopt policies to protect customers, employees and their businesses.
"People struggling to make ends meet are confined to shopping at the Dollar stores," José T. Bravo, National Coordinator for the Campaign for Healthier Solutions, said in a press release. "We are already disproportionately affected by pollution and lack of adequate medical care, and now we know we may be filling our homes and our bodies with chemicals released from Dollar store products. This needs to stop."
Bravo went on to say Latinos and blacks "bear the brunt of the effects of lead. So when you hide it in products in the dollar store ... we are concerned, because we know dollar stores target our communities."
Nearly half (49 percent) of products contained two or more hazardous chemicals above levels of concern; 38 percent of the products tested contained the toxic plastic PVC; and 32 percent of vinyl plastic products contain products tested for phthalates. The chemicals can lead to reduced fertility, cancer, learning disabilities, diabetes, phthalates, birth defects and other health concerns, creating long-term health issues. The toxic metals can lead to brain disabilities, lower IQ and real health complications, particularly in children. The toxins are often used to protect the product from wear-and-tear, maintain its color or textures over time, but these substances have been linked to immunity and hormonal disorders.
With regards to furniture, California was the first state to institute a policy, requiring the flame retardant chemicals be applied to all furniture. Since 1975, industry standard was to bathe furniture foam, stuffing and cushions in flame retardant. However, since 2006 the industry chose to revise the standard regarding fire-safe furniture and retardant chemicals became optional in 2013, according to the Green Science Policy Institute. The goal of the retardant was to give purchasers extra time in case of fire. After an application of flame retardant, furniture can withstand a small open flame for 10 seconds before burring. Nonetheless, those flame retardant chemicals can be dangerous.
According to the report, the best way to individuals can protect themselves from harm is to discard harmful items. Also, those looking to purchase furniture can check the tag or ask a salesperson. Consumers should also do research to ensure that a store they often frequent isn't selling items that will be hazardous to their health.
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