Popular School Supplies with Toxic Chemicals: What NOT to Buy for Your Kids

By Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman, P.C.Product Liability

crayonsIt’s back-to-school season! That means that parents and children are buying school supplies in anticipation of the start of the school year.

Parents need to be aware, though, that a surprising number of common school supplies contain toxic chemicals that can harm their children. Playskool crayons available for purchase at Dollar Tree stores, for example, contain asbestos, which is a known cancer-causing agent. Some types of water bottles contain lead, which is harmful.

What to Buy, and What Not to Buy

How can you be sure the products you’re buying for back to school are safe? Fortunately, there are several ways to do this.

First, the Art and Creative Materials Institute (ACMI) places an “AP” label on non-toxic products to let consumers know they are free of toxic materials. However, manufacturers aren’t required to use the label, so lack of a label leads to some unclarity about whether the products is safe or not.

Second, if there isn’t an AP label, some manufacturers place the words “children’s product certificate” on the product. This wording, though, also isn’t required, so if a product doesn’t have it, parents can’t be sure if the product is safe or not.

Third, and most comprehensively, U.S. PIRG, a nonprofit dedicated to consumer safety, has recently placed a shopping guide to safer school supplies online. They have tested a wide array of back-to-school products for safety. The publication, Safer School Supplies: Shopping Guide, surveys not only products such as markers, crayons, dry erase markers, glue, 3-ring binders, spiral notebooks, lunchboxes, and water bottles, but brand names and the stores that sell them.

The guide also advises parents about safe alternatives to all the products.

Products May Be Toxic Although Legal

Parents may well wonder why material such as asbestos and lead are in their children’s school supplies. There are several reasons.

First, government mandates may not cover all toxicity. According to U.S. PIRG, for example, asbestos is legal in crayons. But it may well be unwise, whether it’s legal or not. As the U.S. PIRG says, the exposure is unnecessary, since there are safer alternatives. They recommend recall of asbestos-containing products and reformulation of the products without asbestos.

Second, some substances may be legal, but harmful to children at high levels. Products containing phthalates are legal, for example, but scientific studies have shown risks to children if phthalates are at a high level. The risks include hyperactivity and birth defects.

Third, recalled products are still on some store shelves. There is a Federal government regulation that children’s’ products should not have over 100 ppm of lead. But U.S. PIRG found some water bottles containing over this amount. It recommends taking the bottles back and obtaining a refund, immediately.

Product Liability Lawyers for New York and New Jersey

Companies who knowingly manufacture and sell unsafe products put consumers at risk. As a result, they can face product liability claims.

If you or your loved ones have been hurt by an unsafe product, call the experienced product liability attorneys at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman. We have been fighting for the rights of victims of defective products for more than 40 years.

Call us today toll free at (888) 624-4916 for a free discussion of your case.

Additional Resources:

  1. Safe Shopping Guide for Back-to-School Supplies. News Release. U.S. PIRG. August 7, 2018. https://uspirg.org/news/usp/safe-shopping-guide-back-school-supplies
  2. U.S. PIRG Education Fund. Safer School Supplies: Shopping Guide. Executive Summary. August 7, 2018. https://uspirg.org/reports/usp/safer-school-supplies-shopping-guide
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