A small group of protesters gathered in front of Dollar Tree in Madera on Wednesday morning to raise awareness of toys and baby products they said are laced with toxic chemicals.
The demonstration was organized by The Campaign for Healthier Solutions, working with Lideres Campesinas and more than 100 other groups. Community leaders said the protest was spurred by a recent report that showed 81% of products tested at Dollar Tree stores contain chemicals that can cause cancer, learning disabilities and other serious illnesses, which are especially hazardous to children and pregnant mothers.
Activists are urging Dollar Tree to adopt corporate policies on chemicals that will protect customers, as other large retailers — including Walmart and Target — have started to do. Campaign organizers said while some harmful products have been removed from Dollar Tree’s shelves, the company “has yet to adopt comprehensive chemical disclosure or management policies.”
Eric Whalen, a spokesman with Coming Clean, Inc. based out of Boston, said the campaign focused on the Dollar Tree in Madera because many of its residents are low-income farm workers and minorities who haven’t been made aware of the harmful chemicals in some products.
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Paula Placencia, an organizer with Lideres Campesinas, said her organization has known about the harmful effects of pesticides on children, but only recently learned about the toxicity in many products.
“May God forgive them for what they are doing to our children,” Placencia said.
Dollar Tree vice president Randy Guiler said Wednesday that the company has a stringent testing program to insure products meet safety and legal standards. Products that do not meet standards are destroyed, and are not made available to consumers elsewhere, he said.
“The safety of our customers is paramount, and we work constantly to ensure our suppliers' products are compliant and safe,” Guiler said.
Protest organizers said that discount chain retailers earn more than $36 billion in sales and operate more stores nationally than Walmart, and that many low-income families “have no other choice but to shop at stores such as Dollar Tree.”