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How to Avoid Toxic School Supplies

school suppliesDid you ever see the indie film “Safe?” It’s the 1995 film where Julianne Moore gets so freaked out by all of the chemicals in the environment that she seals herself up in an isolated igloo structure. I’m beginning to know how she felt.

A new analysis by the Environmental Working Group found that Americans are exposed to 1,200 times more dioxin than the Environmental Protection Agency considers safe. Even more scary, the amount of dioxin infants are exposed to is up to 77 times higher than the level EPA says is harmless.

Where is this dioxin coming from? Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC or vinyl), which is in everything from school supplies to some children’s backpacks.

What’s most disturbing is that children are especially vulnerable to the harmful heatlh effects of toxic chemicals. Chemicals released by the PVC lifecycle have been linked to learning and developmental disabilities, asthma, cancer, obesity, and other health problems.

We strike to make our homes a healthy and safe environment for our childrento grow up in.  But what about the eight hours they spend at school each day?’ asks Mike Schade, PVC Campaign Coordinator for the Center for Health, Environment and Justice. “Unfortunately, many school supplies are composed of PVC, the poison plastic. The plastic can contain a toxic stew of phthalates, lead, cadmium, and organotins–it’s a recipe for disaster.”

Luckily, parents can search for safer options with the CHEJ’s 2010 Back to School Guide to PVC. And for those iphone addicts, an iphone app of the guide will be available later this month.

Tips for avoiding PVCs in school supplies:

1. Stay away from backpacks with shiny plastic designs. They often contain PVC and may contain lead.

2.  Use cloth or metal lunchboxes. The plastic kind (the my kids use — eek!) are made of PVC or coated with PVC on the inside.

3. Use cardboard or fabric-covered folders and binders.

Sometimes I wonder if there’s a a way we can keep our kids safe from harmful chemicals without making ourselves crazy. Do you worry about your children’s exposure to PVC and other toxins?

Photo: flickr/somegeekintn

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