News Release, August 27, 2012: New Report on Toxic Chemicals in Kids’ Products

News Release, August 27, 2012: New Report on Toxic Chemicals in Kids’ Products

For Immediate Release | August 27, 2012

Jeff Gang, Coordinator, The Green Life Online, 617-747-4352, jeff REMOVETEXT
Mike Schade, PVC Campaign Coordinator, CHEJ, 212-964-3680, mike REMOVETEXT

New Report on Toxic Chemicals in Kids’ Products:
Hidden Toxic Chemicals Linked to Asthma and Birth Defects
Found in Children’s Back to School Supplies

[Download PDF version of this release]

Boston, MA— A brand new report reveals that toxic chemicals linked to asthma and birth defects – chemicals that that are banned in toys – were found to be widespread in children’s vinyl back-to-school supplies.

Twenty different children’s school supplies were shown in laboratory tests to have elevated levels of toxic phthalates. The products include popular 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. One product tested, the Amazing Spiderman Lunchbox, contained an estimated 27,900 ppm of the phthalate DEHP. If this product were a children’s toy, it would be over 27 times the federal limit for toys. Another product, the Dora the Explorer Backpack, contained phthalate levels over 69 times the federal limit for toys.

“All parents are doing their best to keep toxics out of their children’s lives – schools, communities, and toys. But these results suggest that many parents are unwittingly endangering their children,” said Jeff Gang, Coordinator of The Green Life Online.

“Our investigation found elevated levels of toxic phthalates widespread in children’s school supplies. Unfortunately, while phthalates have been banned in children’s toys, similar safeguards don’t yet exist to keep them out of lunchboxes, backpacks and other children’s school supplies,” says Mike Schade from the Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ), author of the new report, Hidden Hazards: Toxic Chemicals Inside Children’s Vinyl Back-to-School Supplies. [pdf]

Phthalates are a class of chemicals that are hazardous at even low levels of exposure, and have been linked to birth defects, infertility, early puberty, asthma, ADHD, obesity, and diabetes. According to testing by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children face the highest exposure to these hazardous chemicals. As a result of the widespread use of phthalates in vinyl plastic products, they have been found in the air and dust of our homes and schools, and our bodies, blood and breast milk.
The new report, Hidden Hazards: Toxic Chemicals Inside Children’s Vinyl Back-to-School Supplies, found:

  • 80% (16/20) of children’s back to school supplies sampled contained phthalates.
  • Since the phthalates are not chemically bonded 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.
  • The phthalates DEHP, DnOP, DMP, and DBP were detected in children’s back-to-school supplies.
  • 75% (15/20) of tested children’s back-to-school supplies contained levels of phthalates that would be in violation of the federal ban for toys, if these products were considered toys.
  • 65% (13/20) of children’s back to school supplies sampled contained measurable levels of DEHP.
  • 55% (11/20) 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 Back-to-School Guide to PVC-free School Supplies, also released today, features a listing of safer alternatives to phthalate-laden vinyl products in over 40 different product categories, from backpacks and binders to lunchboxes and electronics.

“We’re pleased that CHEJ is watching out for us, and glad to see the Back-to-School Guide to PVC-Free School Supplies. It’s perfect timing, since summer is wrapping up and our kids are headed back to school. I highly recommend the guide for all parents, so they can know which products to stay away from, and which to use,” said Jeff Gang of The Green Life Online.


Founded in 1990, The Green Life Online is a non-profit organization that helps environmentally-aware and health-conscious citizens make effective decisions about the way they consume and the companies they support.

The Center for Health, Environment & Justice mentors a movement, empowering people to build healthy communities and working to prevent harm to human health caused by exposure to environmental threats.

For a copy of the reports and photos of school supplies that were tested, go to:

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