The Center for Health, Environment & Justice just released a new report on toxic chemicals in children’s products.
The Center tested 20 “back to school” items, and found that 15 of the 20 contained phthalate levels far above the federal regulations for toys. Phthalates are plastic-softening chemicals linked to asthma, obesity, endocrine disruption and birth defects.
I asked Mike Schade, the PVC Campaign Coordinator at the Center for Health, Environment & Justice, to explain how these school supplies put kids at risk. The reason children’s toys have been so heavily regulated is that they can be, and usually are, chewed.
But what about school backpacks and lunchboxes that older kids will keep out of their mouths?
“Children can be exposed to phthalates not just by chewing on the products,” Schade said. “The phthalates are not bound to the plastic and are released over time into the air, so children can breathe them in. Phthalates also tend to cling to dust when they’re released into the air, and dust is a significant route of exposure to phthalates. The phthalates cling to dust, the dust settles, and children can then be exposed to them from touching the dust. Researchers have found phthalates in both indoor air and dust, and according to the federal government, children have the highest levels of these chemicals in their bodies.”
The CHEJ does not set out to simply be a downer, however. (We love organizations that set out to provide solutions!) They have published a list of PVC-free School Supplies. This comprehensive list even provides links to electronics companies committed to phasing out PVC and other toxic chemicals.