There are many germs and pollutants lurking in a classroom that may harm children's health. While many parents are aware of this and send their kids back to school with antibacterial wipes in their backpacks, they may not realize that the backpacks themselves might be a major source of toxins. According to a study conducted by the advocacy group Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ), 75 percent of children's school supplies contain high levels of potentially toxic phthalates.
CBS news reported on the study, which found that many backpacks and lunchboxes contain these chemicals, which are used to soften vinyl plastic. According to CHEJ, these toxins have been associated with a number of health problems, including breathing difficulties, and can be dangerous at even low levels of exposure.
In response to the report, New York Sen. Charles Schumer has called for new laws to regulate the chemical.
"School supplies are supposed to help our children with their education, they shouldn't be harming their health," said Schumer, quoted by the news source. "We don't allow high levels of these toxic chemicals in children's toys and we certainly shouldn't allow them in back-to-school products. When kids take their lunch to school this fall, they shouldn't be carrying it in a lunchbox laden with toxic chemicals."
The Daily Green has tips on how to avoid phthalates, which can also be found in skin care products, shampoos, lotions and other things. First, look for plastic products with the recycling code 1,2 or 5, because plastics with codes 3 and 7 are more likely to contain phthalates. Also, read the ingredients of whatever product is in question. If the list includes, DBP, DEHP, BzBP or DMP, then the product has phthalates.