11 toxic items found in dollar stores

There was a time when “dollar store” conjured images of dusty shelves heaped with expired off-brand items, but those days are largely in the past. That said, Consumer Reports advises using care when shopping at these stores.

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Never buy these toxic items from the Dollar Store
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Never buy these toxic items from the Dollar Store

Plastic food containers

Although they’re considered a bargain at dollar stores, and they’re super convenient in terms of organizing your kitchen, plastic food containers may contain pthalates. which cause reproductive problems in lab animals and are found in high levels, especially in women, in the U.S. population. Over 30 percent of some dollar store products tested had higher levels than are recommended in products used for children. They may also contain bisphenol-S (BPS)—which you’ll find in many BPA-freeproducts and which might be just as dangerous as BPA—the chemical just hasn’t been researched as much.

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Plastic wrap and packaged foods

Like plastic food containers, wraps and the plastic commercial packaging on food products from candies to meats may contain pthalates and BPS. With that in mind, you may want to rethink your use of plastic wrapping. Here’s how Saran Wrap has tried to detox their plastic wrap.

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Toys made before 2008

Just because an item doesn’t have an expiration date doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to buy it. Sometimes dollar stores sell factory closeouts, which means some of their stock may be old, and sometimes that means that as far as the consumer is concerned, they’re past their expiration date. For example, plastic toys made before 2008 are more likely to contain pthalates than toys made since 2008, the year that pthalates were banned from being included in children’s toys.

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Anything vinyl

Pthalates are also used in just about everything made out of vinyl—they keep the vinyl flexible. Here’s a list of items made with vinyl. At the dollar store, you are very likely to see vinyl placemats, shower curtains, bibs, backpacks, novelty watchbands, mattress covers and pool toys.

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Power cords and other electronic accessories

When Healthy Stuff, a project of the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, tested a variety of dollar store items for toxic chemicals, they gave Dollar General an F on their report card. Among other things, they found that many electronic accessories such as USB cords, cell phone chargers and extension cords tested high in chlorine, a toxic chemical of concern and also a sign that the items are made from vinyl. You might want to stick to electronics stores for these accessories.

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Certain cleaning products

Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen found in a variety of cleaning products, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. To avoid toxic chemicals altogether, pick up some baking soda at the dollar store and use it for these 50 clever ways you can clean with it.

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Some personal care products

Speaking of formaldehyde, this list also contains personal care products you are likely to find in dollar stores that may contain formaldehyde, especially if they are factory closeouts. Some of the more recognizable brands include Irish Spring, SoftSoap, and even Gerber.

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Fruit juices

We all know that arsenic is acutely poisonous, but inorganic arsenic is also a suspected carcinogen, even in smaller doses found in certain fruit juices.

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Styrofoam cups and plates

Styrene is a known carcinogen. It’s widely used in the manufacturing of styrofoam cups, plates and packing peanuts—and a lot more. Here’s a list of some styrene-containing products.

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Black plastic kitchen utensils

Bromine, which is linked to cancer and birth defects, is a component in some flame retardants. It’s been banned, but it may have made its way into cheaper, older versions of the ubiquitous black plastic kitchen utensils. It’s best to avoid buying these in the dollar store: stick with stainless steel utensils instead.

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Bug spray

No one likes a pantry pest, but if you try to eliminate them using chemical pesticides, you may be increasing your risk of cancer. Chemical pesticides are also found in flea collars and tick-repellents. Some natural oils seem to repel ticks and are also safe for people and pets. Peppermint, thyme, eucalyptus and cedar oil are a few. But you probably won’t find those at the dollar store!

Want to know more? Another helpful dollar store report lists, in detail, specific dollar-store products that may be hazardous to your health. If you’re left feeling a little flustered by all the chemicals on store shelves, turn to these great ways to detox your kitchen.

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In the past few years, even while smart-money experts have come up with lists of things you should definitely buy there, reports from clean-environment advocates and grassroots consumer watchdog organizations have identified toxic items found in dollar stores. Here are some to watch out for—especially if you’re shopping for your kids. Their growing bodies are more susceptible to the dangers of all sorts of chemicals.

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10 food items to add to your cart at the dollar store
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10 food items to add to your cart at the dollar store

Baking mixes

A ready-made mix is a busy cook’s best friend. Dollar stores offer a treasure trove of breakfast and baking mixes that will make easy work of whipping up a stack of fluffy pancakes or creating a yummy batch of cupcakes for next week’s bake sale. Or enjoy the best of both worlds with Birthday Cake Pancakes. And, yes, cake for breakfast is a thing.

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Canned beans

A thrifty shopper never met a can of beans she or he didn’t like. Not only are beans one of mankind’s staple foods, they work in a variety of recipes and pack a lot of protein, so they’re popular with carnivores and non-meat eaters alike. Try them in soupschiliscasserolesenchiladas or tacos.

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Ramen noodles

Ramen noodles get a bad rap for being cheap dorm room fodder. But with a little creativity, a few extra ingredients and a clever recipe at your fingertips, it’s easy to revamp the drab instant packaged dinner into a delish meal everyone will love.

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Chicken broth

Chicken broth is a base for your favorite soups and stews as well as a staple ingredient in casseroles, rice dishes and other recipes. But simmering the homemade liquid gold on the stovetop is not always a busy cook’s reality. Rely on store-bought broth as a handy standby when time is tight.

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Frozen fruits and vegetables 

Frozen fruits and vegetables are not only budget-friendly, they’re healthy, too. The produce is frequently picked when ripe and then flash frozen to preserve nutrients. In addition, many varieties are salt- and sugar-free, making them ideal alternatives to their canned counterparts. If corn is king tonight, include this slow-cooked side dish on the menu.

Pasta, rice and other dried goods

Pasta, rice, grains, quick-cooking oats: These are the energy-sustaining foods that humans have consumed for centuries to stay full and fueled. And let’s face it, dishes like lasagnaspaghetti and meatballsrice casseroles and steamy oatmeal are crazy delicious. So why not stock up on these staples at crazy-low prices? And don’t pass by the packaged dinners. It’s easy to turn a ho-hum box of mac and cheese into a new comfort food fave with an easy recipe like this one.

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Coffee and tea

We all love our morning fix, but if a $5 cup of gourmet joe doesn’t jibe with a frugal lifestyle, check out the dollar store’s selection of morning pick-me-ups. Most stores offer packages of single-serve coffee capsules in addition to instant coffee and a variety of tea, creamers, sweeteners and syrups. And don’t pass up instant coffee even if it’s not your thing; it adds amazing flavor to baked goods and desserts, including this dreamy indulgence.

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Condiments and spices

Condiments and spices are the secret to transforming a plain-Jane dish into something extraordinary. From simple spices to ketchup, barbecue sauce, gravy, mustard, pickles and relish, it’s never been easier to add flavor…or stock up your pantry with the basics. Want to amp up the flavor and texture in a weeknight classic? Give this glazed meatloaf a try.

Do you know the easy way to get ketchup out of the bottle? Discover more crazy facts about America’s favorite condiment.

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Snacks

Craving something salty, crunchy, chewy or sweet? The dollar store has you covered. The wide array of snacks is a gold mine for munchies of all varieties including crackers, pretzels, chips, popcorn, nuts, dried fruits and trail mixes. Whether you are planning a relaxed game-day get-together, need something fun to tuck into a lunchbox or just want to stock up on finger foods that pack a punch, you’ll find all you need and more. Or get really creative and combine a few ingredients into an easy snack mix. Don’t be surprised if your taste buds break into the happy dance.

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Candy

Cutting costs doesn’t mean giving up your favorite guilty pleasure—candy. Skip the fancy gourmet confectioner shops in the mall and head to your nearest dollar store for the biggest bonanza of chocolates, lollipops, caramels and other candies. Treating the kids to a movie? Save pennies by buying those theater-style boxed treats for $1 apiece. Halloween coming up? You’ll hit the jackpot with the huge variety of trick-or-treat loot found here. Need a fun classroom treat? Use a mix of dollar store candies to decorate a pan of bars the kids won’t be able to resist. Saving money never tasted so sweet!

Whether you’re a college student on a budget or a mama bee with a penchant for pinching pennies, no one will suspect how thrifty you are when you serve dishes made from these dollar store gems. Cutting the grocery bill has never been easier—or tastier!

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