Non-Toxic School Supplies + Eco-Friendly Picks
It’s time for back-to-school shopping! From markers to erasers to backpacks to pencil cases and beyond, send your child to school with safer school supplies that don’t contain any harmful chemicals. Stock up on non-toxic school supplies with this safe school supply list. Most of the products are also eco-friendly!
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With back-to-school right around the corner, it’s time to look at your school supply list and start stocking the shopping cart with everything your kids will need for the year ahead. But before you get shopping, consider that some studies have found harmful chemicals in some of the school supplies being sold to school-age children.
- A 2012 study by the Center For Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ) found high levels of phthalates in children’s back to school products, including backpacks, lunchboxes, and 3-ring binders. Phthalates are used to soften plastic, including vinyl, and they can off-gas and leach from the plastic onto hands.
- In a study conducted by U.S. PIRG, a public interest group, 27 back-to-school products were tested, and 4 of those items were positive for harmful chemicals (asbestos, benzene and phthalates).
- Researchers in a Chinese study tested 62 erasers and found that 21 contained phthalates. In 18 of the phthalate-positive erasers, the levels were well-above the current established safety standards.
Shiny plastic vinyl pencil cases and scented erasers are two products that contain PVC and phthalates, which can disrupt the endocrine system and have been linked to adverse health effects. Check the list below and make sure none of the harmful chemicals are in your child’s school supplies.
What Chemicals To Avoid In School Supplies:
- Phthalates– Phthalates are a class of chemicals used in consumer products to make plastic and PVC soft and pliable, and they are also used as carrier oils for scented products, like scented school supplies (kid-friendly scented pencils, pens, and erasers to name a few). Phthalates are established endocrine disruptors that are linked to adverse health issues. A 2018 review found that current human exposure to phthalates may have effects on the male reproductive system (1), and a 2021 study links phthalate exposure in children to cognitive impairment, hyperactivity, and anxiety and depressive behaviors (2).
- PFAS– PFAS, short for Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, is a class of fluorinated chemicals that have water repellant, nonstick and stain resistant properties. PFAS has been linked to certain types of cancer, as well as thyroid disease, obesity, weakened immunity and other health problems- these chemicals stay in our bodies and persist in the environment for a very long time (3).
- Microban– Microban is a proprietary mix of chemicals that may contain Triclosan, an endocrine-disrupting chemical that can cause bacterial resistance. Microban is engineered to protect products from bacteria, mold and in some cases algae that can cause stains, odors and product deterioration. Microban is not designed to protect users from disease-causing microorganisms.
- BPA, BPS and BPF– PVC may also contain traces of the endocrine-disrupting chemical Bisphenol-A (BPA). BPA is an endocrine disrupting chemical that interacts with hormones in the body. Plastic containers labeled “BPA-free” may contain other bisphenols, such as BPS or BPF, which have the same harmful properties as BPA.
- PVC– PVC (aka Polyvinyl Chloride or vinyl) is a flexible plastic used widely in kids lunch gear. It can contain harmful chemicals like lead, phthalates and BPA/BPS. PVC has been linked with adverse health issues like asthma, learning disabilities, reproductive problems and cancer.
- Lead- Lead is a stabilizer in polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and has been detected on the interior and exterior linings of lunchboxes. Lead can be wiped off and transferred onto children’s hands and food. Lead is a neurotoxin that has an adverse effect on a child’s developing brain and nervous system (4).
- Solvents in markers– Solvents off-gas and evaporate as the product is used, and kids may breathe in the fumes. Many dry erase markers and permanent markers contain benzene, xylene or other solvents, which cause neurotoxicity in children (5).
Are you looking for non-toxic school supplies for your kids? I created a shopping list with everything your kids need to head back to school, minus the harmful chemicals. This list has recommendations for PVC-free, lead-free, phthalate-free, asbestos-free, solvent-free school supplies that you’ll feel good about buying. The best part is that most of the products are also eco-friendly! Give your kids the best start with non-toxic school supplies!