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A study conducted by the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group has found that school districts throughout the state routinely purchase art supplies for student use that contain potentially harmful chemicals.

In its study of 21 school districts, the group found dangerous chemicals that have been linked to cancer--including asbestos--in art supplies such as clay, glass, paint sprays, rubber cements, thinners, shellacs, and markers.

The group also found evidence of methylene chloride and lead in products used by elementary and high-school students. In addition to cancer, the chemical substances have been known to cause damage to the heart, lungs, and central nervous system.

Mindy S. Lubber, program director for masspirg, said that the group initiated the study after members heard reports that toxic art supplies were being used in other states. As a result of the group's study, according to Ms. Lubber, at least two of the districts have ordered art teachers to stop using the products identified in the report.

"I'm sure they are rethinking what they will buy and stock on their shelves," Ms. Lubber said. The 21 districts participating in the study have about 265,000 students--about 30 percent of all students in the state, according to Ms. Lubber.

She said the organization has drafted a bill, which is now being considered by the state legislature, that would require comprehensive labeling of art supplies.

A bill requiring that evolution be taught as theory rather than fact has been approved by the House Education Committee of the Arizona legislature.

The committee chairman, James Cooper, who sponsored the bill, said the legislation would require that, if a theory of evolution is taught in high schools, it be taught in a way that will not foster a disbelief in religion.

A similar bill was proposed last year but died in committee.

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