School Supplies Pose Toxic Threat to Children's Health

    Safer alternatives found in Canada are highlighted in US guide

    TORONTO and FALLS CHURCH, VA, Aug. 4 /CNW/ - As back-to-school shopping
kicks into high gear, two environmental groups are warning parents not to buy
products made with polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, which contains chemicals that
can cause a range of adverse health effects. A guide released today by
Environmental Defence and US-based Center for Health, Environment and Justice
(CHEJ) helps parents choose safer, PVC-free school supplies in over 20 product
categories. Many of the safer alternatives identified, including brand-name
food and beverage containers, backpacks, computers, shoes, and some writing
supplies, can be found on store shelves across Canada.
    "The release of this guide comes just in time for back-to-school
shopping, and will help parents avoid filling their children's backpacks with
toxic products," said Dr. Rick Smith, Executive Director of Environmental
Defence and co-author of the recently-released book "Slow Death by Rubber
Duck: How the Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Life Affects Our Health".
    Polyvinyl chloride, or PVC or vinyl as it is more commonly known, can be
found in or on many back-to-school products, including lunchboxes, binders,
vinyl backpacks, clothes, and art supplies. It contains dangerous chemical
additives, including phthalates, lead, and cadmium, to soften or stabilize it.
These chemicals may evaporate or leech out of PVC products, and contribute to
developmental disorders and damage of the liver, central nervous, respiratory
and reproductive systems. Recent studies have linked PVC flooring in the home
to increased rates of autism and asthma in children. Over 90% of all
phthalates are used in PVC products such as school supplies.
    There is particular concern about children's exposure to these chemicals
since "numerous studies have found that young children are particularly
susceptible to the harmful effects of chemicals released by PVC," said Mike
Schade, PVC Campaign Coordinator for CHEJ.
    Canada recently announced that it will set limits on phthalates in vinyl
toys and products such as teethers and rattles. However, the limits do not
affect children's school supplies and other phthalate-containing PVC products
used or worn by children.
    "This guide was created to help parents make informed choices when it
comes to back-to-school shopping by suggesting alternatives and offering
tips," said Smith. "Given that many safer PVC-free products are available,
parents should try to avoid products made of this chemical concoction wherever
    A copy of the PVC-Free Back-to-School Guide is available to download for
free on the Environmental Defence web site at

    About Environmental Defence ( Environmental
Defence protects the environment and human health. We research solutions. We
educate. We go to court when we have to. All in order to ensure clean air,
clean water and thriving ecosystems nationwide, and to bring a halt to
Canada's contribution to climate change.

For further information:

For further information: or to arrange interviews, please contact:
Jennifer Foulds, Environmental Defence, (416) 323-9521 ext. 232, (647)
280-9521 (cell)

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