back to school shopping | school supplies list
What's on your school supplies list? Hopefully not these items that may be toxic, U.S. PIRG warns. Photo: Pixabay

If you’re a parent or a teacher, you know that it’s practically already time to do all that back to school shopping — where did the summer go? — but before you finalize your school supplies list, a public interest research group is warning against some potentially harmful items.

The U.S. PIRG this week released its Safer School Supplies: Shopping Guide, meant to help protective parents and teachers pick the safest school supplies possible.

Some items that make it to your school supplies list could be laden with toxic chemicals, the public interest group warms. U.S. PIRG conducted laboratory tests for such toxic chemicals in popular school supplies, the nonprofit said, and is warning the public against a few particular products.

Back to school shopping: What items on your school supplies list could be unsafe?

The nonprofit tested dozens of products across different categories that might be on your school supplies list, from markers, crayons and glue to three-ring binders and water bottles. Here’s the back to school items U.S. PIRG says to avoid:

 

Playskool crayons sold at Dollar Tree, which were found to contain trace amounts of asbestos. Exposure to asbestos can increase the risk of lung disease, including lung cancer and mesothelioma. In 2017, asbestos was also found in children’s makeup, the nonprofit notes.

Water bottles like the Base Brands children’s Reduce Hydro Pro Furry Friends water bottle which had been sold at Costco and  GSI Outdoors children’s water bottle, previously sold at L.L. Bean. These water bottles have been recalled, U.S. PIRG notes, but if you already picked them up while doing your back to school shopping, be warned that they were found to contain high levels of lead, per the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which can cause developmental and behavioral problems in children.

School supplies list | back to school shopping | asbestos in crayons

Jot brand blue 3-ring binder, which has been found to contain high levels of phthalates. Phthalates are a group of chemicals used to make plastic more flexible, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and several studies have linked phthalates to increased risk of allergies among children, birth defects and hyperactivity. Though more research needs to be done, many scientific and professional organizations have recommended reducing exposure to phthalates.

Board Dudes brand markers, which were found to contain benzene. Benzene is a chemical compound and a known human carcinogen, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Those exposed to higher levels of benzene were found to have higher rates of leukemia.

For other items on your school supplies list, like glue, markers, pencils, rulers and crayons, make sure to look for the Art and Creative Materials Institute “AP” label, U.S. PIRG says. That stands for “approved product,” and means that such art products have been deemed safe and are certified in a toxicological evaluation by a medical expert that they are free of any materials in “sufficient quantities to be toxic or injurious to humans, including children, or to cause acute or chronic health problems.”

“Based on our testing, we know that most manufacturers make safe school supplies,” said Kara Cook-Schultz, U.S. PIRG Education Fund Toxics Director, in a statement. “We’re calling on the makers of unsafe products to get rid of toxic chemicals and protect American schoolchildren.”

For more U.S. PIRG approved items for your school supplies list, see the full back to school shopping guide here, complete with names of stores selling safe school supplies.

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