Dollar Stores In Canada Are Selling Toxic Toys & Lead-Filled Headphones, A Report Warns

At least a quarter of tested items contained hazardous chemicals. ☣️

MTL Blog, Staff Writer
A Dollarama sign in Montreal.

A Dollarama sign in Montreal.

That microwaveable popcorn you bought at the dollar store could be coated in butter and harmful chemicals.

A report by Environmental Defence found that at least one in four items at dollar stores in Canada contain substances that can be dangerous to the human body. The advocacy group tested products from Dollar Tree and Dollarama, finding lead-laced children's toys and headphones, along with microwave popcorn bags lined with a toxic cocktail of "forever chemicals," known as PFAS, that can leach into the snack.

A third of tested Dollar Tree products and a quarter of those from Dollarama contained hazardous ingredients, including heavy metals, phthalates, PVC, bisphenols and the dreaded PFAS.

The metal used to weld the inside of electronics, including Disney headphones and fart guns, among other toys, contained up to 70% lead. One set of headphones had an outer ring that exceeded the 90 mg/kg lead limit by 24 times. Exposure to lead, especially at a young age, can lead to neurological, cardiovascular, renal, and reproductive damage.

"There is no safe limit on lead. Children’s products should not contain this hazardous substance," said Environmental Defence's Toxics Senior Program Manager Cassie Barker.

“There is a lack of regulations for internal lead in products, despite the tendency for these products to fall apart and expose their dangerous hidden components. This gap in regulation is a loophole that dollar stores are using to sell products that contain high levels of lead – and not break any laws."

Dollar store children's items don't only include lead, however. Plasticizers, including phthalates and bisphenol, were also found in hair clips, dolls, pony toys and funny teeth intended for use in mouths. Plasticizers affect hormone systems and can mess with testosterone levels, genital development and sperm counts. They can also increase the risk of diseases later in life, causing cardiovascular and reproductive issues, and some cancers.

All cash register receipts tested for the report were tainted with bisphenol-S (BPS). All food cans tested for the report contained toxic chemicals — 60% with BPA and 40% with PVC and polyester resin. All tested microwave popcorn packaging contained PFAS.

The federal government declared BPA toxic in 2010 after a Statistics Canada report found the substance in the urine of over 90% of Canadians between the ages of six and 79. But researchers warn that widespread replacements, like BPS, can also be carcinogenic. And while BPA is banned in Canada-sold baby bottles, it's still used in food can linings, along with other unregulated and possibly harmful substances like PVC and polyester resin alternatives.

Dollarama responded to the report, saying: "Consumer product safety is our utmost priority and we have strict processes and controls in place to monitor product safety and quality. The four Dollarama product categories identified in the report (stereo headphone, earbud, pencil pouch and activity tracker) meet applicable Canadian product regulations and are safe to use for their intended purposes."

"Our toxics laws need to be amended to protect consumers, particularly children, and products must be tested and removed from commerce when they pose a risk to our health," said Barker.

"People living in Canada should not be poisoned by the products they purchase from discount stores, regardless of their socio-economic status."

A PR rep for Dollarama told MTL Blog that the store "caters to all demographics and income ranges [and] is held to the very same standards as all other Canadian retailers, as are its products, many of which come from the very same sources as those sold by other major national retailers."

MTL Blog also reached out to Dollar Tree for comment and will update this article when they respond.

This article's cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.

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