School & District Management

Toxic Substances Found in School Supplies, According to Report

By Sasha Jones — December 04, 2018 1 min read
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Asbestos in crayons, benzene in dry erase markers, and phthalates in binders: It’s not just a kindergarten teacher’s worst nightmare, these are the results of a public interest group’s investigation into toxic substances in school supplies.

In the investigation, U.S. PIRG Education Fund, an independent public interest group that works to protect consumers’ health and safety, tested 27 school products, four of which tested positive for toxic chemicals.

Asbestos and benzene are carcinogens that can lead to cancer and mesothelioma. Phthalates is a chemical used to increase the flexibility of plastics and is commonly used in furniture, clothing, and toys. Early exposure to phthalates can affect development and reproduction, according to the report.

The report specifically sought out products that other groups have raised concerns about in the past. Three of each product were bought, and the items that were flagged for toxic chemicals in the original test were retested to confirm the results.

Materials were purchased from a variety of retail outlets, including, The Dollar Tree, and Target and were not taken from actual classrooms.

The report also notes that two brands of children’s water bottles, Base Brands and GSI Outdoors, have recently been recalled for lead; however, the bottles tested in the investigation were found to be negative.

Such toxic substances are not banned by the federal government, meaning that it is legal to have some traces of asbestos and phthalates in crayons and other school supplies, according to the report. Still, the report advises manufacturers to voluntarily recall such products.

“I think there needs to be better oversight of school supplies so that parents and teachers can feel confident when they buy things for children,” Kara Cook-Schultz, U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s Toxics Director said.

Cook-Shultz advised that parents and teachers buy products with the Art and Creative Materials Institute’s “AP” label, indicating that a product is nontoxic, or the manufacturer’s “children’s product certificate,” which means that the product has been tested by a third-party laboratory.

U.S. PIRG has previously found toxic substances in other children’s products, including fidget spinners that were deemed to contain high levels of lead in November 2017.

Images courtesy of U.S. PIRG Education Fund

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A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.