Back-To-School Supplies Could Be Carrying Toxic Chemicals

Connie K. Ho for — Your Universe Online

Dora the Explorer. Spiderman. Disney characters. These are just a few of the figures that are found adorned on school supplies. However, it is important to point out to parents that many of their children´s favorite back-to-school supplies carrying these popular figures may be harboring toxic chemicals, according to a report from the Center for Health, Environment, and Justice.

To begin, Paradigm Environmental Services conducted the tests on the school supplies. In the report, investigators found that the toxins in school supplies were associated with health issues like asthma and birth defects. Overall, 75 percent of the children´s schools supplies were reported as having serious levels of toxic phthalates. Phthalates have also been found in products like hair spray, nail polish, and skin moisturizers. Of the products, fifteen were produced in China and five did not have a country of origin.

“These dangerous chemicals manufactured by Exxon Mobil have no place in our children´s school supplies,” explained Mike Schade, report author, to Amelia Pang of the Epoch Times. “It´s time for Congress to move forward and pass the Safe Chemicals Act to protect our children from toxic exposure.”

Congressional members like Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) have supported the Safe Chemical Act. According to CBS News, the act would increase authority to regulate chemicals in consumer products by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). After the report, Schumer wrote a letter to the White House Office of Management on Budget on the phthalates found in school supplies.

“School supplies are supposed to help our children with their education, they shouldn’t be harming their health. We don’t allow high levels of these toxic chemicals in children’s toys and we certainly shouldn’t allow them in back-to-school products. When kids take their lunch to school this fall, they shouldn’t be carrying it in a lunchbox laden with anything other than a nutritious meal, packed by mom,” remarked Schumer in an article by Medical News Today.

In particular, the scientists tested 20 different popular school supply products, studying them for six phthalates and four heavy metals. The exam included four children´s backpacks, four children´s lunch pails, four three-ring-binders, four kids´ rain boots, and four kids´ raincoats. The products were purchased at retailers like Kmart, Duane Reads, Jack´s World, and Payless in New York City.

“It is disturbing that millions of young children are being exposed to these toxic chemicals with no enforcement to protect them,” commented Judy Braiman, a representative of the Empire State Consumer Project, in a Medical News Today article.

Sixteen of the 20 products were found to have phthalates and 15 out of the 16 had phthalates at a level higher than mandated by federal law. The products are made up of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and the chemicals can move from the product, thus infecting children unintentionally. In particular, phthalates can disrupt hormones and have been found to be associated to problems like asthma, attention deficit hyperactivity disorders, diabetes, cancer, early puberty, infertility, and obesity.

“Phthalates are chemicals that have been linked to asthma, ADHD, and other chronic health problems in children. This new report has now shown that many common products specifically intended for children have high levels of phthalates,” mentioned pediatric neurologist Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klien, an assistant clinical professor of neurology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, in the Medical News Today article. “It is imperative that parents are educated about how to protect their children by buying safer PVC-free school supplies, and that our lawmakers pass legislation to protect children from the long-term health effects of phthalate toxicity.”

For consumers, there are a few tips that can help identify which school products are safe. To begin, if the products have the number “3” or the letters “V” or “PVC” underneath a recycling symbol, then the product´s material is PVC. Parents can also call the manufacturer or retailer to find out of their child´s product is made of a particular type of plastic. They can also visit the Center for Health Environment and Justice online for the 2012 Back-to-School Guide for PVC-free School Supplies.