Hidden Toxins Inside Children’s School Supplies

PE blogMany parents are aware of the dangers of phthalates in cosmetic products. However, phthalates are used in children’s products as well. Did you know that children are exposed to dangerous chemicals found in their backpacks and other school items?

Phthalates are a class of chemicals, such as DEHP, DINP, DBP and DEP. They are used as softeners in PVC, vinyl products to make them soft and more flexible. You will find these chemicals in flexible toys, food packagings, shower curtains, building materials (pipes), and medical devices. Phthalates are dangerous even at low levels of exposure. They are hormone disruptors and are linked to cancer and asthma, AD(H)D, early puberty and birth defects. While phthalates have been restricted or banned in toys in many countries, protection from these dangerous chemicals does not exist for children’s school supplies. I’m deeply concerned that our children are still exposed to these chemicals!

Children are more vulnerable to toxic chemicals than adults. In their developing little bodies a small exposure to toxins translates into a big dose. They put things in their mouths and ingest chemicals from toys, plastic containers, and even dirt and dust on a daily basis.

In 2012, an American study investigated the presence of phthalates in children’s school supplies, such as backpacks, lunch boxes, ring binders and rain wear. They found that the items tested contained levels of phthalates that would be in violation of the ban for toys, if these products were considered toys. They also found that the school supplies contained more than one phthalate, clearly indicating that our children are exposed to multiple phthalates in their school supplies. Additionally, the study found that apart from phthalates, children’s PVC school supplies also contained heavy metals, such as lead, mercury, cadmium and chromium.

Many PVC backpacks and lunchboxes contain levels of phthalates that are 40-50 times higher than the limit set for toys. As school supplies are not classed as toys, companies are able to get away with adding these hazardous, toxic chemicals to their products.

PVC backpacks, ring binders, lunch boxes, raincoats, umbrellas and wellies contain excessively high levels of phthalates and our children are exposed to elevated levels of these toxic substances by using these school supplies.

Follow these easy steps to reduce your children’s exposure to phthalates:

  1. Avoid school supplies made with “vinyl” or “PVC”! Unfortunately some products are not properly labeled, making it difficult to determine whether they contain vinyl. Phthalates are used to soften PVC. Try to buy PVC free school supply. To identify vinyl packaging, first look for the universal recycling symbol. If it has the number “3” inside it, or the letters “V” or “PVC” underneath it, you know the product is made out of PVC and is likely to contain these chemicals.
  2. Do a “Sniff Test.” That “plastic” smell from plastic toys, backpacks, ring binders, raincoats, umbrellas and other plastic products usually comes from phthalates.
  3. Try canvas backpacks, stainless steel lunch boxes, cloth covered binders and PVC-free rain coats and boots.
  4. Ditch the PVC altogether if you can!

To download more information on the lab report, visit: http://chej.org/wp-content/uploads/HiddenHazardsReportFINAL.pdf

Re-published with permission from the blog of ParentEdge, a bi-monthly parenting magazine that aims to expose parents to global trends in learning and partner with them in the intellectual enrichment of their children. This blog was written by Aniko Sziraczki is a Kinesiologist with a background in Psychology, and the founder of Raising Toxin Free Children.