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Asbestos, Phthalates, Benzene, Lead Found in Back-to-School Supplies

CoPIRG Foundation releases lab results, tips, and guide for parents, teachers
For Immediate Release

Many parents and teachers shopping for their students’ 2018-19 school supplies look for a “non-toxic” label on the products, but many products don’t have that label. CoPIRG Foundation is releasing a guide that advises consumers which products are actually non-toxic and which to avoid.

"This fall, parents and teachers can use our safe shopping guide to help them purchase school supplies,” said Danny Katz, CoPIRG Foundation Director. “We should feel safe knowing we’re sending our kids off to school with supplies that don’t contain toxic chemicals.”

CoPIRG Foundation tested dozens of school supplies including markers, crayons, dry erase markers, glue, 3-ring binders, spiral notebooks, lunchboxes and water bottles. We found several supplies containing asbestos, lead, benzene and other dangerous chemicals. The “School Supplies Safe Shopping Guide” warns consumers about those specific products, and offers suggestions for safer alternatives.

Out of the dozens of products that we tested, most did not contain toxic chemicals. However, our tests and investigation found the following: 

  • Asbestos in Playskool crayons sold at Dollar Tree. Asbestos, which can cause lung cancer and mesothelioma, has recently been found in other children’s products, such as makeup.
  • Lead in recently-recalled children’s water bottles (Base Brands children’s Reduce Hydro Pro Furry Friends water bottle, once sold by Costco, and GSI Outdoors children’s water bottle, once sold by L.L. Bean). The Consumer Product Safety Commission recalled both of these items because they contained high levels of lead. Lead can cause severe developmental and behavioral problems.
  • Phthalates in Jot brand blue 3-ring binder. The levels of phthalates in the binder is considered unsafe for children by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. High levels of phthalates can lead to birth defects, hyperactivity, and reproductive problems.
  • Benzene in Board Dudes brand markers. Benzene is a known carcinogen linked to leukemia, and disruptions in sexual reproduction and live, kidney and immune system function. 

“Based on our testing, we know that most manufacturers make safe school supplies. We’re calling on the makers of unsafe products to get rid of toxic chemicals and protect American schoolchildren,” said Katz.

The full safe shopping guide, including pitcures of the products and names of stores selling the safer products, can be found at here.

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