SCHUMER: DESPITE WARNINGS THAT SCHOOL SUPPLIES ARE LADEN WITH DANGEROUS LEVELS OF TOXIC CHEMICALS, FEDS HAVE DONE LITTLE TO ACT; SENATOR SAYS PARENTS NEED TO KNOW WHAT’S IN SCHOOL SUPPLIES; URGES FED INVESTIGATION BEFORE SCHOOL BELL RINGS
Recent Reports Revealed That Common School Supplies Bought By Parents, Including Crayons, Markers, Rulers, 3-Ring Binders, Notebooks, Glue, And Lunch Boxes Are Riddled With Dangerous Level Of Toxic Chemicals
Senator Says School Supplies Shouldn’t Put Our Children’s Health At Risk; Urges Feds To Immediately Launch Investigation Before School Starts
Schumer To Feds: Investigate Toxins in School Supplies Before The School Bell Rings
On a conference call with reporters today, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer urged the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to take immediate steps to protect our children from potentially harmful chemicals in their school supplies. Schumer explained that multiple reports have raised concerns that popular back-to-school supplies, when tested, contained dangerous levels of toxic chemicals. Schumer explained that the CPSC is the federal agency responsible for investigating whether consumer products pose a risk to the American public, and called on the CPSC to immediately investigate the products mentioned in the various reports, promptly disseminate their findings to the public, and if necessary, immediately recall those items in order to keep our kids from getting sick. Schumer emphasized that no parent should have to worry about whether or not their child is being exposed to poison in their school supplies, and urged the CPSC to waste no time in their investigations.
“Simply put, no parent should ever have reason to be concerned about whether or not their child is being harmed by their school supplies. These numerous independent studies are clear: the link between these chemicals does have a dramatic impact on the body, specifically children’s,” said Senator Schumer. “That’s why today I’m calling on the CPSC to immediately launch an official federal investigation to determine whether or not various types of school supplies contain dangerous levels of toxic chemicals, and if they do, recall those products before the school bell rings. The only chemicals students should have to worry about are on the periodic table.”
Schumer explained that the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) published a report this year that examines eight categories of ‘common school supplies bought by parents each year’, including crayons, markers, rulers, 3-ring binders, notebooks, glue, lunch boxes, and water bottles. Schumer said that the U.S. PIRG tested popular brands from each category and that their results were alarming, to say the least. According to the U.S. PIRG, Playskool Crayons were found to have Asbestos; both EXPO and The Board Dudes dry-erase markers turned up samples of BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene); 3-ring binders tested positive for phthalates; Hydro Pro Furry Friends and GSI Outdoors Kids water bottles were found to contain lead.
Schumer said that with the back-to-school season already in full swing, millions of parents are stocking up on schools supplies in order to send their children back to school prepared. However, with these dangerous chemicals lurking in popular schools brands, parents could be unknowingly exposing their children to numerous toxic chemicals. For example, asbestos has been shown to be extremely toxic; inhaling or ingesting this compound can result in lung cancer or mesothelioma, among many other issues. According to the PIRG report, BTEX contains compounds that are Endocrine Disruptors. Schumer explained that Endocrine disruptors are especially dangerous for children during certain stages of development. Exposure to BTEX has been linked to disruptions in sexual reproduction, liver, kidney and immune system function.
Additionally, Schumer explained that Phthalates, which are popular in the plastics industry and frequently used as additives to PVC, are susceptible to leaching, which can cause them to be ingested or absorbed via the skin. Phthalates have been linked to a plethora of health risks such as compromised male reproductive system, early puberty, and irregular fetal growth if a mother is exposed during pregnancy. According to a 2012 study by the Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ) high levels of phthalates were also found in children’s vinyl backpacks. Lastly, Schumer said that the dangers of lead poisoning have been clearly documented, and that it can lead to decreased brain and nervous system development, which can be particularly harmful to children.
Furthermore, a 2008 Back-to-School Guide from the Environmental Working Group also warned consumers about the dangers of toxic chemicals in school supplies. The Environmental Working Group report claimed that many lunchboxes are made with toxic metals, and that some are even coated in lead paint. The report also discussed how products ranging from notebooks and binders to backpacks are often times made with PVC, which can contain dangerous Phthalates.
Schumer first sounded the alarm about toxic chemicals in school supplies in 2012, when he called Safe Chemicals Act. The Safe Chemicals Act gave the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) new authority to test and restrict the use of chemicals that cannot be proven safe by manufacturers in products like lunchboxes, backpacks, and three-ring binders.
A copy of Schumer’s letter to the CPSC appears below:
Dear Chairman Buerkle,
I write to call your attention to a critical issue that is potentially jeopardizing the health of students in New York and across the nation. Of specific concern are recent studies conducted by non-profits and consumer advocacy groups indicating that popular back-to-school supplies, when tested, contained dangerous levels of toxic chemicals. As the agency charged with investigating whether consumer products may pose a risk to the American public, I urge you to quickly analyze the products mentioned in those reports, promptly disseminate your findings to the public and if the Commission should find toxic levels of chemicals, move to recall those items immediately in order to keep consumers out of harm’s way.
As you may know, earlier this year the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) published a report that examined eight categories of ‘common school supplies bought by parents,’ such as crayons, markers, rulers, 3-ring binders, notebooks, glue, lunch boxes, and water bottles, for toxic chemicals. The results revealed from popular brands of each category were indeed alarming. For example, Playskool Crayons were found to have Asbestos; both EXPO and The Board Dudes dry-erase markers yielded samples of BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene); 3-ring binders tested positive for phthalates; and Hydro Pro Furry Friends and GSI Outdoors Kids water bottles were found to contain lead. Even more concerning is that these revelations are not the first of their kind. A similar study conducted by the Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ) in 2012 found high levels of phthalates in children’s vinyl backpacks.
Given the breadth and frequency of chemicals found in commonly purchased school supplies revealed by these studies and the high likelihood that they are being purchased by unsuspecting parents, it is critical that your agency make an immediate investigation a top priority. With back-to-school season already in full swing, millions of parents are stocking up on school supplies in order to prepare their children for the upcoming school year. In order to complete this process in a manner that ensures parents can make informed decisions, it is critical that they be armed with information that enables safe purchasing choices. As you know, asbestos exposure has been shown to be extremely toxic, sometimes resulting in lung cancer or mesothelioma. Similarly, phthalates, a popular chemical in the plastics industry, have been linked to developmental and reproductive issues. Lastly, the dangers of brain injury as a result of lead have been clearly documented. With this in mind, it is clear that the results of an investigation could be key to keeping students safe. Parents should never have to worry about which brand of school supplies may put their child in harm’s way.
I applaud the Commission for the many steps it has taken to ensure our nation’s kids are protected from adverse toxins and unsafe products and I fully expect that work to continue with this issue. Thank you for your consideration and I look forward to working with you on this and future issues.