Every year, part of the back to school ritual is loading up on new school supplies for the term. These include new pencils, pens, erasers, protractors, lunchboxes, backpacks, and toxic chemicals? If you’re surprised that toxic chemicals are lurking in your child’s school supplies, you’re not alone. Many parents were similarly surprised by a new study that states your child’s school supplies could endanger their health.
The Center for Health, Environment, and Justice released a recent study in which they analyzed the harmful chemicals in a variety of school supplies. What they found were widespread toxic amounts of phthalates, which were used as plasticizers, substances which increased the flexibility, transparency, and durability of plastic and PVC- vinyl products. It’s no wonder the Center for Disease Control says children are exposed 20- fold to these harmful chemicals. They’re in the very supplies these children use in school every day!
In the study, 75% of backpacks, binders, lunchboxes, and rain gear purchased in New York contained unacceptable levels of phthalates. As a parent, you try to protect your child from harmful chemicals in their toys, but are you aware of the harmful levels of toxins in their lunchboxes and binders?
Exposure Can Produce Serious Health Risks
Exposure to these toxic chemicals has been linked to:
- endocrine disruption
- birth defects
- early onset puberty
- attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- liver damage
- damage to reproductive organs
Children are at a much higher risk of these conditions because of their higher sensitivity to toxic chemicals. A 2008 Canadian researcher observed that children “are more vulnerable to the potential adverse effects of phthalates given their increased dosage per unit body surface area, metabolic capabilities, and developing endocrine and reproductive systems." In addition to their small size, children put things in their mouth constantly. Who among us doesn’t remember the kids in school who ate paste and stuck objects in their eye lids or their mouths for a laugh?
The cumulative exposure to phthalates over the course of our lifetimes is the source of great debate. But in 2008, the US National Research Council advocated further study and inquiry into these toxic chemicals due to adverse effects occurring in homes across the country. Until the Safe Chemicals Act, and similar legislation works its way through Congress, parents need to be vigilant about what their children are exposed to.
How to Decrease Your Child’s Risk
- Avoid vinyl or pvc products. Choose plastics with the recycling codes 1,2, or 5. Recycling codes 3 or 7 are more likely to include phthalates.
- If the ingredients are listed on the packaging, look for the following harmful chemicals
- DBP (di-n-butyl phthalate)
- DEP (diethyl phthalate)
- DEHP (di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate or Bis (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate
- BzBP (benzylbutyl phthalate)
If Your Child Is Exposed
If you’re concerned that your child may have been exposed to high amounts of toxic chemicals in their school supplies, you should consult a physician. Mention the kinds of products available in your child’s home and classroom that could be potential risk factors. Remove the toxic items from your home and your child’s school backpack.
If your child has been harmed by these dangerous products, you may also want to review your legal options with a trusted personal injury attorney. This trusted advocate can review your legal remedies with you and suggest a course of action.