SCHUMER REVEALS: STORE SHELVES STILL BEING STOCKED WITH SCHOOL SUPPLIES THAT COULD BE LADEN WITH DANGEROUS LEVELS OF TOXIC CHEMICALS; DESPITE NEW WARNINGS, FEDS HAVE NOT ACTED; SENATOR WANTS IMMEDIATE ACTION BECAUSE PARENTS ARE SHOPPING RIGHT NOW
New Report Reveals That Common School Supplies Bought By Parents, Including Crayons, Markers, Rulers, 3-Ring Binders, Notebooks, Glue, And Lunch Boxes Contain Dangerous Levels Of Toxic Chemicals—Many From China
But These Supplies Are Still Being Stocked On Store Shelves & Could Put Kids At Real Risk; Senator Urges Feds To Launch Investigation & Consider Immediate Action Because Parents Are In The Midst Of Shopping
Schumer To Feds: Toxic School Supplies Should Not Make The Grade-- Or The Backpacks Of Kids
As parents work to fill backpacks with school supplies for their kids, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer explained that store shelves are still being stocked with school supplies that could be laden with dangerous levels of toxic chemicals that can make children sick. Despite new warnings, Schumer said the feds have not acted. Schumer urged immediate action because parents are back to school shopping right now, and many are not aware of a new report detailing that some of the most basic school supplies are impacted, including: crayons, markers, even binders.
“Toxic school supplies should not make the grade or the backpacks of kids,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “Numerous independent studies have long proved a link between chemicals like Phthalates and sick children. That’s why I’m calling on the CPSC to take swift action and investigate the precise levels of toxic chemicals in these everyday school supplies—many from China—and to consider recalls if their data warrants action. The only chemicals students should have to worry about are on the periodic table.”
Schumer said there is no excuse for these products to have found their way into the marketplace, especially since the chemicals in question are known to be a danger to kids. Schumer said the chemicals in question—which include Phthalates—demand swift fed action by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The Senator was joined by the team that worked to produce the recent report exposing these toxins in school supplies.
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.
Schumer stood with the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) who published the report that examined 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.
“When parents see an item marked as a Back To School supply, they naturally assume that it will be safe for their kids. But some of these supplies contain chemicals at levels that aren't appropriate for children. We call on the CPSC to properly regulate Back To School supplies as children's products, and for manufacturers to stop selling products that contain asbestos, benzene, and phthalates to children," said Joe Ready of U.S. PIRG.
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, an earlier 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.