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Some Back-to-School Products & "Bounce Houses" Spell Danger for CT Kids

September 8, 2010

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Backpacks, lunchboxes and binders, all of which seem like helpful back-to-school supplies for Connecticut kids, could actually do more harm than good, according to Michael Schade. As the PVC coordinator for the Center for Health, Environment & Justice, Schade says these plastic products are made with Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) or vinyl, substances that contain such harmful additives as lead.

"This is the most toxic plastic for our health and environment, and chemicals released by the vinyl life cycle have been linked to chronic diseases on the rise in children. Diseases like learning disabilities, obesity, asthma and diabetes."

Schade says children are at risk from even small amounts of exposure to these chemicals, but there are opportunities to recognize the affected products. To identify PVC packaging, look at the universal recycling symbol; if it includes the number "3" or the letters "V" or "PVC," his advice is to pass it up. If you're still unsure or the product is not labeled, call or email the manufacturer. His organization also provides a free list of safe alternatives on its website, www.chej.org.

Another danger can be found lurking in "bounce houses," those inflatable vinyl structures kids play in at birthday parties and other places, warns Schade.

"A new investigation by the Center for Environmental Health and the California attorney general has found that many children's vinyl 'bounce houses' are made out of this poison plastic, and are actually contaminated with potentially harmful levels of lead."

He advises parents to ask if the structure contains lead before allowing kids to play in it. If there's any doubt, he suggests making sure children wash their hands and faces immediately after playing.

Melinda Tuhus, Public News Service - CT