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Some School Supplies Made with Toxic Plastic

August 30, 2011

PHOENIX - Arizona parents are being offered a lesson in back-to-school shopping. The group Healthy Legacy is warning that some school supplies contain harmful chemicals that can affect a child's learning ability and health. Organizer Kim LaBo says backpacks, for example, often contain PVC.

"Also known as the 'poison plastic.' And the good news is, there are lots of alternatives to this harmful chemical that parents can buy and they oftentimes cost the same or less as the PVC vinyl product."

Clues that a product contains PVC: A "3" or "V" under the universal recycling symbol. LaBo says to put those items back on the shelf. Besides health risks related to PVC itself, Healthy Legacy cites additives commonly found in those products that contain the plastic as additional health hazards, including lead and cadmium.

LaBo says phthalates are also commonly found in PVC products, and while phthalates have been banned from most children's items, they're allowed in school supplies like lunch boxes and three-ring binders.

"It was banned because of concerns about health effects. It'd been linked to asthma and to kind of disrupting key stages of development in children."

LaBo suggests that back-to-school shoppers avoid vinyl, and instead look for and purchase supplies that use cardboard, metal or fabric, at least until changes are made in how school supplies are manufactured.

"Unfortunately, our current laws are very outdated. So, there is an effort across the country to change those laws, so that parents don't need a guide in order to find products that are safe for their children."

A guide to safe school supply shopping is online at It is free to download at

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ