Beware of School Supplies with Toxic Chemicals, Consumer Group Warns

As parents nationwide begin shopping for their children’s “back-to-school” supplies, a consumer advocacy group warns that certain products may contain potentially harmful chemicals, such as asbestos in crayons and lead in children’s water bottles. 

The U.S. Public Interest Research Groups (PIRG) released a Safer School Supplies: Shopping Guide last week, warning that parents, teachers and students about certain school supplies tested and found to contain toxic chemicals that could be harmful to the health of children.

Researchers from the group conducted laboratory tests for toxic chemicals in dozens of popular school supplies including markers, crayons, glue, spiral notebooks, rulers, three-ring binders, lunch boxes, and water bottles. The findings indicated many popular products on store shelves are safe, however, some products were found to contain harmful chemicals including carcinogens such as asbestos.

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The study suggests that Playskool crayons sold at Dollar Tree stores contain dangerous levels of asbestos, which can lead to many chronic respiratory issues. Asbestos is also the only known cause of mesothelioma, which is a rare, aggressive form of cancer that develops in the lungs, abdomen and heart. Despite the known dangers of asbestos, the U.S. still allows up to one percent of the toxin to be added to consumer products.

Additional research found lead in recently recalled children’s water bottles that were sold by Costco, GSI Outdoors and L.L. Bean stores. The products were recalled by the U.S. Consumer Product safety commission due to the paint used on the outside of the water bottles containing higher than allowable levels of lead.

Phthalates, which are a chemical used to soften PVC plastic and solvents were found in Jot brand blue three ring binders. Researchers warn that exposure to Phthalates have been known to cause damage to the liver, kidney, lungs and reproductive system and have also been found to increase the risk of birth defects and hyperactivity disorders.

Out of several brand of dry erase board and permanent markers brands tested, researchers found the Board Dudes brand markers contain Benzene, which is a known carcinogen linked to leukemia, and disruption in sexual reproduction and liver, kidney and immune system function.

While most of the dozens of products tested by the advocacy group checked out to be safe for public consumption, experts are warning parents to avoid these known products to limit the exposure of potentially harmful toxic chemicals.

In addition to listing the products that were known to contain toxins, researchers have also published a list of the safe school supplies on their website for consumers to consult prior to school supplies shopping.


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