News and Notes from The Johnson Center

Shop for Safer School Supplies

JCCHD | Wed, August 20, 2014 | [Community][Healthcare]

Any parent of a school-aged child knows how many choices there are for back-to-school supplies. Before deciding which comic book hero or cartoon cat your child wants on his or her binder, check labels and choose one that isn’t risky for their health or the environment.

Commonly used materials like PVC/vinyl contain high levels of phthalates, an additive used to soften plastics. Phthalates can leech out of products over time, contaminating food, being absorbed through skin, and even evaporating into the air we breathe. Exposure to phthalates has been linked to asthma, learning disabilities, diabetes, and other chronic conditions. Children are at a high risk from long-term exposure to phthalates and other chemical additives because their bodies and brains are still developing. This risk has been addressed somewhat in the US by banning phthalates from children’s toys, but dangerous levels are often still found in school supplies.

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The manufacture, use, and disposal of phthalates also pose a huge environmental risk. The heat generated in manufacturing or burning phthalates releases highly toxic chemicals known as dioxins into the air, the ground, and the water supply. These dioxins are known to cause harm to immune and reproductive systems, as well as causing cancer.

You can determine which school supplies to avoid by reading labels. Usually a product made out of vinyl or PVC will say so on the label. If not, check the recycling symbol. If the symbol contains the number 3, the product is made out of PVC. If you cannot find the symbol, be a pro-active consumer. Research the manufacturer’s web site or call the customer service number.

Doing your homework to keep your own family safe is great, but consider taking it a step further. Organize with other parents and teachers to start a green initiative in your child’s classroom, school, or district.

Check out these resources for toxin-free and sustainable school supplies: