how to buy safe products at the dollar storeThere are some wonderful deals to be had at a dollar store but a certain amount of caution is warranted in order to protect yourself and your family from products that may be potentially harmful. Here's what you need to know to make sure your dollar store purchase is safe.

Electrical Products

Before you buy that dollar store extension cord or package of light bulbs, check to see if it has a certification mark from the Underwriters Laboratories (UL).

A UL certification mark on a product means that it has been independently tested and meets applicable standards for safety and/or performance.Without a certification mark, that extension cord you just bought may prove to be a shock or fire hazard. Even with a certification mark, you have to be careful. Evidently, there are fakes out there. Flimsy packaging and misspelling on packaging may be signs that the certification mark is counterfeit. Check the UL website for instructions on how to spot fake certification marks.

Kids' Toys and Jewelery

Toxic materials in products for children have been a concern for some time, but these products aren't only found in dollar stores.

Lead is poisonous if swallowed and too much exposure can lead to a whole host of health problems. Cadmium is often substituted for lead in toys and jewelry, but it can cause cancer if sucked on or swallowed.

So how can you tell if something at the dollar store has lead in it? According to health sources, items made with a high percentage of lead are typically heavy for their size. If it's not coated, the item may leave a gray mark on a piece of white paper when rubbed against it. You can buy lead testing kits for home use but a Consumer Reports article states that these kits can't detect lead levels below the surface. For exact levels, you need to have items tested professionally.

Vitamins or other Health Supplements

When buying vitamins or other health supplements in a dollar store, here's what you need to know:

Legitimate products have an eight-digit Drug Identification Number (DIN), a Natural Product Number (NPN ) or a Homeopathic Medicine Number (DIN-HM ) on the label and packaging. If that bottle of vitamins you're looking at doesn't have one of these numbers on it, you could be holding something that has the wrong or dangerous ingredients in it. At the very least, these products may actually contain no active ingredients at all.


Marlene Alexander is a freelance writer and dollar store diva. She writes tips and ideas for home decorating using only items from the dollar store.

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