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Kids' Back to School Supplies May Be Filled With Toxic Phthalates

Common Dreams staff

The Dora the Explorer Backpack was found to contain two kinds of phthalates, at levels which, if the product were a toy, would exceed federal limits. (photo: CHEJ)

Common children’s vinyl back-to-school supplies may be loaded with toxic phthalates, a  report from the Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ) released Sunday shows.

Phthalates were banned in toys in the United States in 2008, but remain in some other items that fill children's everyday lives.  CHEJ sampled 20 products including backpacks, binders, raincoats, and rainboots and found that 80% contained phthalates, chemicals that have been linked to birth defects, infertility, early puberty, asthma, ADHD, obesity, diabetes, and cancer.

“Phthalates are chemicals that have been linked to asthma, ADHD, and other chronic health problems in children. This new report has now shown that many common products specifically intended for children have high levels of phthalates. It is imperative that parents are educated about how to protect their children by buying safer PVC-free school supplies, and that our lawmakers pass legislation to protect children from the long-term health effects of phthalate toxicity,” said pediatric neurologist Dr Maya Shetreat-Klein, Assistant Clinical Professor of Neurology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Mike Schade from CHEJ and author of the new report adds that safeguards from these chemicals will come from the Safe Chemicals Act. "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.  It’s time for Congress to move forward and pass the Safe Chemicals Act to protect our children from toxic exposure,” says Schade.

CHEJ recommends that parents and caretakers consult the 2012 Back‐to‐School Guide to PVC‐free School Supplies to make safer choices.

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WABC New York has video on the report and the toxic products:

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