Price probably ranks as your biggest concern when shopping for school supplies. But the potential health effects of plastic products containing PVC could mean more to your child's future than how much you save, according to the Center for Health, Environment and Justice which offers a PVC-free buying guide for school supplies.
Lesson 1: PVC = Bad for health
Many school supplies don't make the grade when it comes to safeguarding your kids' health because they are made with polyvinyl chloride, PVC and vinyl, a plastic that contains toxic chemical additives.
These additives may include:
Phthalates. Used to make plastic more flexible, these industrial chemicals have been shown to disrupt the body's reproductive system and its endocrine system, the glands and organs in the body which control mood, development and growth;
Cadmium. An extremely toxic chemical used in industrial plants, usually in the smelting of iron ore. Cadmium exposure in children, through direct ingestation, could lead to ailments in adulthood, including osteoporosis and lung cancer, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Organotins. These widespread organic pollutants have potent endocrine-disrupting properties, according to the Endocrine Society, and may be linked to the rise in obesity, type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Because of mounting health concerns, children's toys and personal care items can no longer be produced using three types of phthalates--thanks to the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008. Unfortnately, phthalates can still be used in the manufacture of other PVC products to which children are exposed.
PVC also creates problems for the long term health of the environment, releasing cancer-causing dioxins into the air during manufacture and potentially leaching toxic chemicals into the ground soil and water supply upon disposal.
Lesson 2: Create a shop smart checklist
The CHEJ guide lists the most common back-to-school supplies made out of polyvinyl chloride (PVC or vinyl) plastic and suggests safer PVC-free alternatives.
Here are some rules to follow to make sure your check list checks out:
Avoid shiny plastic backpacks, umbrellas and raincoats: They often contain PVC and may contain lead.
Buy cloth or metal lunchboxes, or look for plastic lunch bags that are labeled "PVC-free."
Choose cardboard, cloth-covered or polypropylene 3-ring binders instead of vinyl binders.
Skip products with the #3 inside the recycle symbol with the letters "V" or "PVC" underneath.
Stick with shiny metal: Paperclips and binder rings coated with colored plastic may contain PVC.
Use stainless steel water bottles or insulated containers to reduce potential exposure to phthalates in plastic: Avoid plastic food and beverage containers made polycarbonate (PC), polystyrene (PS) and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastics which pose health risks too.
Look for the "PVC-free" label on products.
Call the manufacturer's 1-800-number listed on the package to find out what it's made of if the product doesn't contain a label or symbol.
Lesson 3: Use a cheat sheet
If it's too much information to cram, the CHEJ guide also lists PVC-free products and suppliers. Print it out as your cheat sheet to safer school supply shopping.
These three simple lessons can arm help arm your child for a successful school year with the only distractions coming from friends, Angry Birds and pop quizzes.
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