(Health Secrets) Back to school supplies such as backpacks, lunchboxes, notebooks, raincoats, and rainboots could be exposing our children to high levels of toxic chemicals which can cause health and learning problems. Many of these chemicals are already controlled in other products such as toys, according to a new report from the Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ).
The chemicals that were studies are known as phthalates and they are used to soften plastic or make it more flexible. Phthalates are most frequently found in PVC. Exposure to these chemicals, even at low doses, can disrupt a child’s endocrine system and cause serious consequences. Phthalate exposure has been linked to ADHD, asthma , birth defects, and various other chronic problems, and this has led to regulation of their use in toys intended for children.
Mossville, Louisiana is the PVC producing capital of the world and it’s no surprise to discover that its residents are two to three times more likely to suffer from health complaints such as ear, nose and throat illnesses, central nervous system disturbances, cardiovascular problems and cancer, as well as skin, digestive, learning, immune and endocrine disorders.
In the U.S. current regulations state that toys must contain less than 0.1% of three widely used phthalates which are DEHP, DBP, and BBP. These regulations are similar in Europe, and in Denmark the use of these phthalates has been banned altogether. Unfortunately these regulations don’t impact on school gear and classroom supplies such as notebooks, back packs and lunchboxes, which means our children are still being exposed to high levels of these dangerous chemicals.
What does the study show?
The CHEJ bought twenty different products intended for use by children at school and tested the levels of phthalates contained within them in the laboratory. The types of products tested were vinyl lunchboxes, backpacks, 3-ring binders, raincoats, and rainboots.
Fifteen of the products were found to contain levels of phthalates that exceeded the accepted level for toys, and these included items branded with Spiderman and Disney characters. One of the worst offenders was a Dora the Explorer backpack which contained levels of phthalates that were around 70 times higher than would have been legally acceptable in a plastic toy.
Mike Schade, the author of the study, has called on the U.S. government to pass the Safe Chemicals Act to protect children from exposure to toxins such as phthalates. He reports that,
“Our investigation found elevated levels of toxic phthalates widespread in children’s school supplies, including Disney and Spider-Man lunchboxes and backpacks. These dangerous chemicals manufactured by Exxon Mobil have no place in our children’s school supplies. 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.”
Keeping your child safe from toxins
Fortunately there are alternatives to plastic products containing harmful chemicals, and by being aware of this issue you can reduce your child’s exposure to phthalates. These top tips are useful when you’re outfitting your child out for school:
- Avoid products labeled as vinyl
- Avoid products that contain PVC indicated by a number 3 in the recycling symbol or the letter V
- Avoid products that contain acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), polycarbonate (PC) and polystyrene (PS)
- Try to choose fabric alternatives to shiny plastic products wherever possible
- Don’t be afraid to call the manufacturer of a product to find out if it contains PVC
Spread the word to other parents so you can help make your child’s classroom a toxic free zone.
Photo by US Department of Education