Parents across the country are stocking up on the latest binders and lunchboxes over the next few weeks. But while it’s easy to know the healthiest foods to pack in those lunchboxes, many parents are not aware of the toxic plastic used to make them. In fact, the average child’s character-themed backpack is filled with supplies and materials made from one of the most toxic plastics, polyvinyl chloride (PVC or vinyl). That’s why we at the Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ) have released our 2nd annual Back-to-School Guide to PVC-Free School Supplies to help you make healthy shopping choices that are safer for your kids, your community and the environment. The guide features a listing of safer PVC-free school supplies in over 20 product categories – from lunchboxes and backpacks to raingear. We even put together a handy wallet-sized version of the guide for your shopping needs on the go.
Toxic PVC plastic is widespread in lots of school supplies. While the chemical industry argues PVC is perfectly safe, PVC is unique among plastics because it contains dangerous chemical additives. These harmful chemicals include phthalates, lead, cadmium, and/or organotins, which can be toxic to your child’s health. What’s worse is the danger these chemicals pose- phthalates and other toxic additives can leach out or evaporate into the air over time posing unnecessary dangers to children. That’s why we call it the poison plastic.
NY Times columnist Nichols Kristof recently wrote a must read op-ed about the dangers of phthalates. Over 90% of these phthalates are used to soften PVC products such as school supplies – that’s over 5 million tons a year! More and more studies are coming out every month uncovering the hidden dangers of these ubiquitous chemicals. A first-of-its kind study found children who live in homes with PVC flooring, were twice as likely to have autism. A new analysis by the Center for American Progress found that phthalates have been linked to declining reproductive health. In fact a new study just publicized yesterday found women with higher exposure to phthalates may be more at risk of delivering premature babies.
It’s enough for any parent to exercise precaution – after all this is our children’s health we’re talking about.
The good news is there are plenty of safer PVC-free school supplies out there. What are you doing to purchase safer PVC-free school supplies this year?
Mike Schade coordinates the Center for Health, Environment and Justice’s (CHEJ) national PVC campaign and has organized numerous local, state and national campaigns resulting in substantial victories for environmental health and justice.