As the beginning of the school year draws near, parents and children alike will rush to stores and stock up on school supplies. Between all the different products and brands, it can become hard to distinguish which brands are deemed “safe” for children. For many parents, school supplies having potentially harmful chemicals is the last thought to cross their minds. Nevertheless, it is important to be vigilant in choosing products for children.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CSPC) is tasked with ensuring children’s products are safe for use, and issuing recalls in the cases in which they are not. The CPSC follows government mandates on the safety of products. For instance, products for children should have less than 100 parts per million (ppm) of lead. When the level of lead exceeds the threshold, the CPSC issues a recall.
Non-Governmental organizations may disagree with the “safe standards” set by the CSPC, or may want to test products independently. The United States Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG), a longstanding public health and safety non-profit organization, routinely tests products.
A study conducted by U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) in 2018 tested 27 common school supplies for toxic chemicals including lead, asbestos, bisphenol-A (BPA), and other potentially harmful chemicals. Of the tested supplies, three contained toxic chemicals: dry erase markers contained benzene, crayons contained asbestos, and a three-ring binder contained phthalates, a chemical that can cause potential damage at crucial stages of development. The year prior, fidget spinners, another popular children’s product, were deemed to contain high levels of lead by the U.S. PIRG.
Some of the chemicals tested are not outright banned by the federal government, but the U.S. PIRG informs consumers of any potential risk from exposure. While the U.S. PIRG can make recommendations of recalls, it is the responsibility of the CPSC to issue such action.
To combat a lack of information among consumers, third party companies have emerged to educate families on the potential health risks some products have. Organizations like Made Safe contain online databases of products deemed safe, along with the scientific reasoning for the categorization. By breaking down by both product types and chemicals, consumers can make more informed decisions regarding which products they want their children to use. As school draws closer, consumers are advised to be conscious of the products they are purchasing for the year ahead.
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