Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Beware of toxic school supplies

As the resumption of classes draws near, green advocates advised shoppers not to buy goods made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or plastic that poses chemical risks to human health and environment.

EcoWaste Coalition, a group promoting chemical safety awareness and action, asked shoppers to abstain from buying goods made of PVC, also known as vinyl or plastic number “3,” which are loaded with many additives that can transfer into the environment and pose risk to human health.

Thony Dizon, coordinator of the EcoWaste’s Project PROTECT (People Responding and Organizing against Toxic Chemical Threats), explained that “one of the additives of concern is a family of industrial chemicals called phthalates, which are added to PVC plastics to make them softer, more flexible and durable,” he said.

“To minimize children’s exposure to chemical poisons in school supplies, we urge parents to assert their lawful rights as consumers to demand for complete product information and for safe products without hazardous contents such as phthalates,” he said.

To prevent children’s exposure to phthalates, EcoWaste has adopted several tips from the US–based Center for Health, Environment and Justice to avoid PVC school supplies.

EcoWaste advised shoppers to avoid modeling polymer clays made of PVC, backpacks with shiny plastic designs as they often contain PVC and may contain lead, plastic lunch boxes that are made of or line with PVC, and notebooks containing metal spirals encased in colored plastic; look for PVC-free materials in rainwear (i.e. rain boots and raincoats), prints on clothing, accessories such as handbags, jewelry and belts, shiny and colorful plastic umbrellas as these are typically made out of PVC, and single-use disposable packaging, or those marked PVC or plastic number 3, whenever possible.

Likewise, EcoWaste asked parents to buy PVC-free butcher paper, waxed paper, parchment paper, low density polyethylene (LDPE) or cellulose bags; use stainless steel utensils; choose organizers/ address books made with sustainably harvested wood, metal, or paper covers; stick to the plain metal paperclips; and use cardboard, fabric-covered, or polypropylene binders.

Dizon noted that five common school supplies bought by EcoWaste in May 2010 and sent to Taiwan for laboratory analysis were found to contain high levels of di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate or DEHP, a suspected human carcinogen


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