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PVC-Free School Supplies

CHEJ 2013 Back to School List

PVC-Free School Supplies

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Alexandra Scranton
Director of Science
and Research

Did you know that children’s vinyl (PVC) school supplies, like backpacks, lunchboxes, and 3-ring binders, can contain toxic chemicals? Scientists have found find vinyl products can release toxic chemicals like dioxins, phthalates and mercury which are linked to asthma, cancer, birth defects, learning and developmental disabilities, obesity, diabetes and other chronic diseases.

Manufacturers shouldn’t be allowed to make this stuff, but for now, here are some tips on avoiding the worst.

Avoiding PVC

  • Look for non-plastic products whenever available. For example:
    • Backpacks: Avoid backpacks with shiny plastic designs as they often contain PVC and phthalates.
    • Three-ring binders: Use cardboard, fabric-covered, or polypropylene binders. Most plastic 3-ring binders are made of PVC and often contain phthalates. Look for binders labeled “PVC-free.
    • Lunchboxes: Use cloth lunch bags instead. Look for lunchboxes labeled as “PVC-free.”
  • PVC-free school supplies
    Avoid the three-arrow “recycling” symbol with the number 3 and/or the initials PVC. These indicate it’s made with PVC.
  • When choosing plastic items, be sure as well to avoid polycarbonate (PC), polystyrene (PS) and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastics, which can also contain toxic chemicals.
  • If no symbol is present, call the manufacturer’s question/comment line (usually a toll-free 800 number) listed on the package to find out what it’s made of.

For more tips and a list of PVC-free school supplies by brand, check out the 2013 Back-to School Guide for PVC-Free School Supplies from our partners at Center for Health, Environment, and Justice.

See more non-toxic tips!

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