Remember the excitement and promise of a new binder and Pee Chee folder ready to be filled and decorated at the start of a new school term? When back to school shopping this year, be careful that the new binder is not the source of harmful toxic exposure to your child. The heavy paper, cardboard and fabrics traditionally used for backpacks and school supplies are now often replaced with toxic plastics, such as polyvinyl chloride, (PVC), commonly know as vinyl- that are extremely detrimental to our youth. According to the Center for Health Environment and Justice (CHEJ):
From production to use and disposal, vinyl releases a toxic cocktail of chemicals including dioxins, phthalates, mercury, PCBs, vinyl chloride, chlorine gas and numerous other substances harmful to our health, some of which are building up in our children’s bodies and food supply. Scientists have found find certain vinyl chemicals linked to asthma, cancer, birth defects, learning and developmental disabilities, obesity, diabetes and other preventable chronic diseases on the rise.
Last year, independent laboratory testing commissioned by CHEJ and the Empire State Consumer Project found toxic chemicals linked to asthma and birth defects widespread in children’s vinyl back-to-school supplies. Seventy-five percent of children’s “back-to-school” supplies tested in a laboratory had elevated levels of toxic phthalates, including popular Disney branded school supplies, such as vinyl lunch boxes, backpacks, 3-ring binders, raincoats, and rainboots. The levels of phthalates found in children’s school supplies would be illegal if these products were toys.
So what do we do?
First, we need to educate ourselves about what we are buying to steer clear of companies that are negligently (and unnecessarily) using harmful toxins in their products. PVC is now ubiquitous. It can be found in the most unsuspecting products. Lucky for us, the good people at CHEJ have compiled a guide for PVC- free supplies. They cover a wide range of products, including art supplies, backpacks, lunch boxes, food wrap, clothing and electronics. There are lots of alternatives available and quite a few small companies working to produce quality products that respect consumers and the environment.
Click here to get the guide.
Secondly, we need to press for changes at the policy level and fix the broken federal toxic substances law. Industry must be required to show that the chemicals they use in their products do not pose a threat to health and the environment. Groups like the Environmental Working Group are working to reform the laws regarding the use of chemicals. Do your part and tell Congress that you support a stand for public health.
Here’s to a happy healthy school year!!