Date: Sat, 08/22/2015
Location: Family Dollar, 7321 Harrisburg, Houston, TX 77011
Time: 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM
Parents and Students Demand Safer Products for Back to School Shopping: Education! Not Contamination!
Houston, Texas —Parents and students, along with community support will gather outside Family Dollar to strongly urge Family Dollar to protect its customers and their children by phasing out toxic chemicals found in its products and school supplies. Back to school can be a challenging time, not only for students, but parents who feel the pressure in their wallets. For the 200,000+ students enrolled in HISD schools and 75% of those economically disadvantaged, school supplies can be that much more difficult to obtain. To avoid having to buy overpriced all-in-one back to school packs many budget-conscious parents hunt for alternatives which can mean shopping for individual items. Being a budget conscious shopper isn’t the problem however, it is the health risks associated with these cheaper alternatives which can pose as a danger to children’s health. The Campaign for Healthier Solutions recently released a report that found 81% of dollar store products, including some school supplies tested, contained chemicals linked to cancer, diabetes, learning and developmental disabilities. Demonstrators will be holding large placards and banners, while educating customers about the toxic chemicals commonly found in dollar store products; encouraging them to sign a petition urging retailers to remove toxic products from store shelves. This Family Dollar is located in close proximity to communities that are already impacted and overburdened by polluting industries.
WHEN: August 22nd, Saturday 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM
Houston, TX 77011
WHO:Yudith Nieto, Campaign Co-Coordinator with t.e.j.a.s.,
Deyadira Trevino, Campaign Co-Coordinator with t.e.j.a.s.,
Melanie Scruggs, Program Director with Texas Campaign for the Environment
Affected parents and students from the nearby community.
Interviews will be available in both English and Spanish.
This demonstration was organized by The Campaign for Healthier Solutions (working with Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (t.e.j.a.s.) and over 100 environmental justice, public health, community, and women’s organizations) after a recent report found that 81% of dollar store products tested contained chemicals linked to cancer, diabetes, and developmental disabilities. Demonstrators in Houston, Dallas and Austin were also joined by activists from Texas Campaign for the Environment, a nonpartisan, nonprofit citizens group which has been generating personalized letters from consumers to Family Dollar’s CEO.
“I’m adjusting my child’s school supply list to reflect PCV-free 3-ring binders, backpacks and lunch bags made without phthalates and made of natural fibers. We are also making sure the crayons we buy are asbestos free and I encourage other parents to do the same,” said Deyadira Trevino, campaign co-coordinator with t.e.j.a.s.
Melanie Scruggs, Program Director for Texas Campaign for the Environment said; “Texas Campaign for the Environment is committed to building a Texas free from pollution. Our members come from every corner of the state and every walk of life, and each of them have a right to know that the products they buy at the store are safe for their families regardless of how much it cost. We are honored to provide support to our friends at t.e.j.a.s. and the Campaign for Healthier Solutions as we declare our independence from toxic products.”
The chemicals of concern found in 81% of products tested from discount retailers (commonly called “dollar stores”) including Family Dollar, include: phthalates, linked to birth defects, reduced fertility, cancer, learning disabilities, diabetes, and other health issues; polyvinyl chloride plastic (PVC or vinyl), which has been linked to asthma and lung effects; and toxic metals such as lead, which harms brain development leading to learning disabilities, lower IQ, and other serious health impacts especially in children.
“People struggling to make ends meet are confined to shopping at the dollar stores,” said José T. Bravo, National Coordinator for the Campaign for Healthier Solutions. “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.”
Combined, discount chain retailers have sales totaling over $36 billion and operate more stores nationally than Walmart. Many communities of color and low-income families have no other choice but to shop at stores such as Family Dollar, and given the toxic chemicals found in dollar store products these communities are unable to avoid exposure.
“I want safer school supplies for my child and other children in our community. Without the cooperation of dollar stores to supply us with safer products, we bear the cost with our health,” said Deyadira Treviño. She continued; “It is these communities which are stuck with not only dollar stores and their toxic products, but also find themselves surrounded by refineries and other toxic producing industries.”
Data compiled by public interest researchers in 2014 shows discount retailer’s’ core customer base (42%) is lower-income people who make less than $30,000 a year (report, pg 14). Forty percent (40%) of customers rely on public assistance of some type. And residents in these communities often have reduced access to quality medical care, fresh and healthy food, and public services, which are critical to overall health and to withstanding chemical exposures. In many of these communities, dollar stores are the only store selling household goods, including food. Forty percent (40%) of sales at dollar stores go toward food products—much of which is highly processed with low nutritional quality, and whose packaging is another potential source of toxic chemicals including bisphenol-A (BPA), a synthetic hormone linked to breast and others cancers, reproductive problems, obesity, disrupted puberty and heart disease.
These factors often compound, leading communities of color and low-income families to experience disproportionate rates of learning disabilities and other health impacts. Because of their importance to these disproportionately impacted communities, dollar stores hold a higher level of responsibility to ensure they are not selling products which contain harmful chemicals any would further endanger people of color, the demonstrating groups noted.
Although some discount retailers have taken specific actions to remove a few harmful products from their shelves or test some of their products, Family Dollar has yet to adopt comprehensive chemical disclosure or management policies. The campaign recently sent a letter to the CEO of Family Dollar asking the company to address these issues, but has yet to receive a response or any indication that Family Dollar is taking action to protect its customers.
The Campaign for Healthier Solutions isn’t calling for a boycott of Family Dollar, but instead organized today’s demonstration to encourage the chain and other discount retailers to follow Walmart, Target, Staples, and others in adopting corporate policies to identify and remove harmful chemicals from their stores. The campaign seeks to work with discount retailers to help them protect their customers and the communities in which they operate, and grow their businesses, by implementing corporate policies to identify and phase out harmful chemicals in the products they sell. The campaign recently released a video starring Jennifer Beals to educate the public about the threat toxic chemicals in dollar store products potentially pose to customers.
The Campaign for Healthier Solutions is led by Coming Clean and the Environmental Justice Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform. The campaign’s leadership team includes representatives from Lideres Campesinas in Oxnard, CA; Los Jardines Institute (The Gardens Institute) in Albuquerque, NM; and Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (t.e.j.a.s.)in Houston, TX.
Over 100 diverse organizations from across the United States have joined the Campaign’s call for discount retailers to adopt and implement strong corporate policies to identify and disclose chemicals in the products they sell, prioritize the most harmful chemicals for elimination, and replace toxic chemicals with proven safer alternatives.
EJHA is a network of environmental justice organizations in 13 states building movement towards safe chemicals and clean energy that leaves no community or worker behind.