It’s that time of year. Parents are heading to the store to buy school supplies for their kids. But things like crayons, dry erase markers and binders could contain dangerous chemicals.
“You know, I worry more about the food that I buy, buying organic food, more than I do crayons and markers,” said mom Caroline Young.
Young, like a lot of parents, didn’t think much about whether school supplies might contain toxic chemicals.
“Well, I think this is completely shocking to people, the fact that there could be asbestos in crayons,” said Amy Ziff the founder and executive director of Made Safe, a nonprofit that helps people find products without known toxic chemicals.
“It does surprise me. And I see right here it says non-toxic,” said Young holding a box of crayons.
The nonprofit U.S. PIRG tested 27 school supplies in 2018. The group found potentially dangerous chemicals in Playskool crayons, The Board Dudes dry erase markers and a Jot three-ring binder.
The items can be purchased at many Dollar Tree stores or on Amazon.
Asbestos is a known carcinogen.
“What runs through my mind automatically is that they have people in hazmat suits removing asbestos from buildings, and yet they’re putting that same thing in something that my kid is going to put in her mouth,” Young said.
Mom Veronica Glass buys dry erase markers for her two oldest children.
“I know our 5-year-old has been practicing tracing her letters and the dry erase makers are the easiest to wipe and use,” said Glass.
The dry erase markers contained chemicals that can disrupt a child’s hormonal system. They are linked to infertility problems, breast cancer and prostate cancer.
“And then I’m contributing harm to their health? It’s really upsetting,” Glass said.
Ziff said there are red flags.
“Hand soap and hand sanitizer are two really big things that we see chemicals that everything that claims to antimicrobial, antibacterial just skip that,” Ziff said.
Ziff said avoiding products with fragrances is another cheap and easy switch.
“Cutting out fragrances cuts out the potential for hundreds, literally hundreds of chemicals that can be wrapped in as part of the fragrance,” said Ziff.
Ziff suggested staying away from products made from number three plastics and cleaning wipes, which many teachers request for the classroom. They’re made of plastic and often contain chemicals.
“We need independent, scientific, third-party verification that our products are indeed made from safe materials,” said Ziff.
She recommended that parents look for seals that indicate the product is made from nontoxic materials. She also suggested choosing items made from natural materials.
“We are conducting an experiment on our kids with chemicals, and we need to stop,” said Ziff.
“I guess I need to be more vigilant and do more research because it is pretty shocking that such cancer-causing or damaging agents could be in stuff that our kids use every day,” said Young.
The makers of the school supplies that had toxic chemicals responded to the research.
Playskool said its independent lab testing found no asbestos, and all its crayons are tested before coming into the U.S.
Dollar Tree said it reverified that each of the listed products successfully passed inspection and testing after the report was issued.
Mattel said The Board Dudes magnetic dry erase markers, as identified by the Campaign for Toxic-Free Products with U.S. PIRG, contain substance levels that fall within the permissible limits.
"We take these reports seriously and are conducting a thorough review into the claims."
Here are some online resources to help parents avoid toxic chemicals in school supplies:
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