Most school-age children have mixed feelings when it comes time to go back to school. However, purchasing new school supplies for back-to-school is almost universally something that is eagerly anticipated – who doesn’t love that new eraser smell?
Although most school supplies are carefully regulated and completely safe for your children, some have been found to contain harmful toxins and should be avoided. This guide can help you identify which school supplies are toxic so you can stay away from them.
Back-to-School Items You Need to Keep Your Kids Away From
Asbestos-containing crayons. It may seem crazy in today’s day and age, but some crayons – particularly those manufactured outside of the United States – may contain asbestos.
In 2000 the government’s Consumer Products Safety Commission ruled that asbestos in crayons was not a significant health risk to children, but all US brands agreed voluntarily to remove any trace amounts of asbestos. Further, some experts disagree with this ruling, and argue that any amount of asbestos is unsafe for children.
To play it safe and avoid any risk of asbestos in crayons, stick to name brands from US manufacturers. Alternatively, you could decide to opt for natural beeswax crayons, which are more eco-friendly than traditional paraffin crayons.
PVC-containing plastics. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is an odorless solid plastic. Vinyl chloride and dioxins in PVC have been linked to increased risk of cancer, birth defects, diabetes, learning and developmental delays, early puberty, asthma, and autoimmune disease. Congress banned the use of PVC in toys in 2008, but it is still found in some plastic school supplies such as binders, backpacks, and even lunch bags.
To determine whether a product contains PVC, check the label. If the universal recycling symbol has the number “3” or letters “V” or “PVC” underneath, the product contains PVC. For backpacks and lunch bags, cloth products may be a safer option, as shiny plastics often contain PVC. Some products may not be labeled with a recycling symbol. In this case calling the manufacturer or checking the website may help to clarify.
BPA-containing plastics. Bisphenol A (BPA) is used in plastics to make them stronger. BPA has been linked to reproductive problems, cancer, and other health problems. In 2012 the Food and Drug Administration banned the use of BPA in baby bottles and toddler sippy cups, but it is still allowed in water bottles and lunchboxes intended for children.
Many plastic products are now labelled as BPA-free, so look for this label when selecting plastic school supplies. You may also opt to purchase stainless steel or glass water bottles or stainless steel lunchboxes to avoid plastics altogether in your child’s lunch.
Chlorine-whitened papers. Chlorine is commonly used to bleach paper products. It is listed as a pesticide by the Environmental Protection Agency, is a known reproductive toxin, and may exacerbate asthma. Therefore, this may be particularly important to avoid for children that suffer from respiratory illnesses.
To avoid chlorine-whitened papers, looked for unbleached paper products or products whitened with non-chlorine bleach. Many office supply stores sell chlorine-free, recycled paper products.
Solvent-containing markers. Markers are a staple back-to-school supply. However, they often contain high levels of toxic solvents and artificial fragrances that cause respiratory damage, or even brain damage with prolonged exposure. To avoid these hazards, select unscented, washable markers labeled as “non-toxic.”
Dry erase markers also contain high levels of solvents, so these may be best-suited for older children who have been instructed with proper use to avoid overexposure. Some schools require the purchase of dry-erase markers for school supplies. If this is the case for your child’s school, discuss any safety concerns you might have ahead of time.
Oil-based paints. When small children paint, they often end up with as much paint on them as on the paper, and may also ingest some of the paint as well. It’s therefore prudent to avoid oil-based paints that contain solvents such as methanol and toluene, which are toxic. Art supplies may also contain pigments made from cadmium, arsenic, and lead.
For younger children, select non-toxic, water-based paints such as tempera paint and some water colors. These paints are also easier to wash out of clothing, so are also a better choice for young children who are likely to get art supplies on their clothes.
Pay Attention to Recalled School Products as Well
With school supplies, as with any other product your family uses, it is always prudent to keep an eye on product recalls, which are publically posted by the government, and are available in a searchable database. If you believe that your family has been harmed by a recalled or defective product, consult with a Florida personal injury attorney to determine if you are eligible for compensation.
About the Author:
Since 1994, seasoned litigation and trial lawyer Anthony B. White has helped thousands of accident victims seek damages due to injuries sustained as a result of another party’s negligence. Included in America’s Registry of Outstanding Professionals and selected to the 2012, 2013, and 2014 editions of Florida Super Lawyers, Mr. White specializes in car accidents, insurance disputes, wrongful death, product liability, and medical malpractice cases. He is a longstanding member of the Florida Justice Association and the American Association for Justice and currently sits on the Board of Directors of the Broward County Justice Association.