Are Your Child’s School Supplies Toxic?

A recent report from the Center for Health, Environment, and Justice (CHEJ), a non-profit group advocating for environmental health and justice, found that children’s vinyl back-to-school supplies are laden with hidden toxins known as phthalates which are associated with asthma, ADHD and birth defects.

According to the CHEJ report, phthalates were found in 80 percent of the articles tested by Paradigm Environmental Services in Rochester New York.

“In total, four children’s backpacks, four children’s lunchboxes, four 3‐ring binders, four children’s rainboots, and four children’s raincoats were purchased and tested,” the report states.

“All products were purchased in New York City during the 2012 ‘back‐to‐school’ shopping season at Kmart, Duane Reade, Payless, dollar stores and other retailers. The levels of phthalates found in children’s school supplies would be illegal if these products were toys.”

Congress permanently banned three types of phthalates –  DEHP, DBP, and BBP – in any amount greater than 0.1 percent in children’s toys, and any child care article designed to facilitate sleep or to help children young under age three with sucking or teething.

All of the phthalates found in the products tested were above the legal limit.

The report goes on to explain that over phthalates are used to soften vinyl plastic. Even at low levels of exposure, phthalates are known to disrupt hormones in our bodies, and have been linked to birth defects, infertility, early puberty, asthma, ADHD, obesity, diabetes, and cancer. Because of the widespread use of phthalates in vinyl plastic products, these toxins have been found in the air and dust of homes and schools, as well as in our bodies, including in the blood and breast milk.

Sadly, testing by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that children have the highest exposures to these hazardous chemicals.

The study also found that none of the products sampled contained labels indicating that the products contained phthalates.

What can be done about it? The report lists several actions that can be taken to ensure that safer products will get into the hands of our children.

1. As an interim measure, require phthalate warning labels on school supplies;

2.  Adopt policies to protect consumers and ban the use of phthalates and vinyl in children’s school supplies and children’s products;

3.  Adopt policies to ban the use of phthalates and vinyl in other products in schools, such as building materials and office supplies;

4. Conduct a public campaign to educate consumers about the risks posed by phthalates and vinyl school supplies; and

5. In enacting such phase‐outs, consider policies that alleviate short‐term economic impacts on phthalate and vinyl production workforce, and to also consider economic benefits to workers in industries making safer alternatives.

N.Y. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) is urging Congress to pass the Safe Chemicals Act which would revise the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976 and give the Environmental Protection Agency more control over chemical regulation in consumer products. However, the bill is hung up in Congress with opponents saying it is flawed and in need of substantial revisions before it can pass.

At the present time, parents can refer to the recycling symbol on the label of the product. According to the Epoch Times, if it contains the number ‘3,’ or if the letters ‘V’ or ‘PVC’ are found underneath the symbol, the product possibly contains phthalates.

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