It’s already getting close to that time of year when “back to school” aisles in supermarkets around the nation are packed with flustered parents and excited youngsters who can’t wait to get their hands on their new supplies.
Unfortunately, that all too recognizable aroma of new folders, binders, and backpacks may be more than just the smell of another school year—it may also be the indication of a toxic chemical.
A 2012 report from the Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ) found dangerous chemicals known as phthalates—used to make vinyl products more flexible—present in over 80% of the school supplies sampled, including:
- Vinyl lunchboxes
- 3-ring binders
- Rain boots
- And others…
Phthalates are already banned from children’s toys when Congress ruled back in 2011 that they are too dangerous for kids, even in low exposures. However, manufacturers of school supplies continue using the toxic compound during production.
“Unfortunately, while phthalates have been banned in children’s toys, similar safeguards don’t yet exist to keep them out of lunchboxes, backpacks and other children’s school supplies,” said Mike Schade, author of the CHEJ report. “It’s time for Congress to move forward and pass the Safe Chemicals Act to protect our children from toxic exposure.”
Phthalates have been linked to a myriad of health issues, such as asthma, infertility, ADHD, obesity, diabetes, early puberty, and birth defects, and according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, young children are most affected by exposure.
Experts urge parents to protect their children from exposure to phthalates by purchasing safer alternative school supplies which are free of the potentially harmful chemical.
You can do this by browsing through the CHEJ’s Back to School Guide to PVC-Free School Supplies, or by checking the recycle symbol on the back of the product. If the product has a “3”, “V”, or “PVC,” on the recycle symbol, then it may contain these toxic phthalates.
Co-publisher of the report, Judy Braiman, is greatly troubled by the findings, saying, “It is disturbing that millions of young children are being exposed to these toxic chemicals with no enforcement to protect them.”
If your child has any reaction to school supplies containing phthalates, visit a pediatrician immediately. And of course, if a product has caused your child injury or illness, contact a defective product attorney as soon as possible to see what legal rights you have against the manufacturer.