The report “Hidden Hazards: Toxic Chemicals Inside Children’s Vinyl Back-to-School Supplies” published by the Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ) in Virginia and the Empire State Consumer Project in New York found high concentrations of phthalates in 15 of the 20 items analyzed.
“Our investigation found elevated levels of toxic phthalates widespread in children’s school supplies. Unfortunately, while phthalates have been banned in children’s toys (in US), similar safeguards don’t yet exist to keep them out of lunchboxes, backpacks and other children’s school supplies,” said CHEJ’s Mike Schade, author of the new report.
Released yesterday, August 26, at a press conference in New York with Senator Chuck Schumer, the report quickly caught the attention of the EcoWaste Coalition, fuelling the toxics watchdog’s renewed call for a ban on the use of phthalates in children’s products such as toys, school supplies and childcare articles. The EcoWaste Coalition has co-released the report in partnership with CHEJ.
“Local health policy makers and advocates should pay attention to these latest available data on phthalates in school supplies and initiate concrete steps that will prevent children’s exposure to these harmful chemical additives. It’s high time that the government bans the use of phthalates in the manufacturing of children’s products,” said Aileen Lucero of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.
Phthalates (pronounced as “THAL-ates) are a class of toxic industrial chemicals that are hazardous at even low levels of exposure. As plasticizers, phthalates are used to make plastics, particularly polyvinyl chloride (PVC), softer, more flexible and durable. DEHP, DNOP, DMP, and DBP were among the phthalates detected in the school supplies sampled.
Since the phthalates are not chemically bound to the vinyl, they can migrate from within the products to the surface. Children may be exposed to elevated levels of these toxic substances by using these school supplies. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children face the highest exposure to these hazardous chemicals.
CHEJ detected elevated levels of toxic phthalates in 75% of the sampled Disney, Spiderman, and Dora branded school supplies, including vinyl lunchboxes, backpacks, 3-ring binders, raincoats, and rainboots. All of the products were purchased during the 2012 “back-to-school” shopping season in US.
One product tested, the Amazing Spiderman Lunchbox, contained an estimated 2.79% of the phthalate DEHP, a suspected carcinogen. If this product were a children’s toy, it would be over 27 times the US federal limit for toys.
CHEJ’s study also showed that 55% of children’s back to school supplies sampled contained more than one phthalate, indicating children are exposed to multiple phthalates from vinyl back to school supplies.
None of the products sampled contained labels indicating the products contained phthalates.
“It is disturbing that millions of young children are being exposed to these toxic chemicals with no regulations to protect them,” said Judy Braiman of the Empire State Consumer Project, co-publisher of the report.
The results of the CHEJ’s study were similar to the findings of the EcoWaste Coalition, which has twice commissioned independent laboratory analyses for phthalates in PVC school supplies.
In 2012, the EcoWaste Coalition revealed that four out of five samples of PVC school supplies it had sent to the laboratory for analysis were found to contain excessive amounts of phthalates. A Dora the Explorer pink PVC raincoat had 35.86% of the phthalate DINP; a metal ruler with a rubberized part containing Smileys had 0.534% DNOP and 0.285% DINP; a red PVC plastic envelope with images of Angry Birds had 1.89% DINP, 2.21% DEHP and 2.86% DIDP; and a Princess Mica PVC lunch bag had 2.57%, 0.280% DBP and 0.189% DINP.
In 2010, all five samples of PVC school supplies that the EcoWaste Coalition sent to the laboratory were found to contain elevated quantities of phthalate DEHP. A green long PVC plastic envelope had 19.881% DEHP; a PVC plastic book cover had 18.997% DEHP; a PVC notebook cover had 18.543% DEHP; a PVC plastic lunch bag had 17.120% DEHP; and a PVC backpack had 17.120 DEHP.
The results, which got publicized in the local media, prompted Sen. Lito Lapid to file a resolution calling for an inquiry, in aid of legislation, into the proliferation of school supplies containing phthalates that pose serious health risks to school children.
Also at the Senate, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago has filed Senate Bill 1596, which seeks to prohibit the sale of toys and other children’s articles to children three years of age and below “if it contains any measurable amount of phthalates.”
At the House of Representatives, Rep. Susan Yap had introduced House Bill 321 specifically banning the sale of toys and childcare articles containing phthalate BBP, DBP, DEHP, DIDP, DINP or DNOP in excess of 0.1% by mass.
Please log on to http://chej.org/2012/08/backtoschool2012/ to see the report and the photos of school supplies that CHEJ tested, as well as the CHEJ’s “Back-to-School Guide to PVC-free School Supplies” featuring a listing of safer alternatives to phthalate-laden vinyl products in over 40 different product categories, from backpacks and binders to lunchboxes and electronics.