The Center for Health, Environment & Justice has released its 2011 Back to School Guide to PVC-Free School Supplies to help parents choose safer, PVC-free school supplies.  The guide is being released just in time for back-to-school shopping.  Parents across the country are stocking up on binders and lunchboxes.  But while it’s easy to know the healthiest foods to pack in those lunch boxes, many parents are not aware of the potentially toxic plastic used to make them. In fact, the average child’s character-themed backpack is filled with supplies and materials made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC or vinyl), which some believe is toxic.

Land of Nod PVC-free children's backpack with recycling symbolA new 2011 study found PVC is the most widely used hazardous plastic in the world.  Children are particularly vulnerable to the harmful health effects of toxic chemicals, such as phthalates, lead and dioxin, that are released by the PVC lifecycle.

“Parents have a right to know about toxic chemicals in children’s products,” said Mike Schade, PVC campaign coordinator for the Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ).  “Unfortunately, many school supplies are made out of PVC or vinyl plastic, the most toxic plastic for our health and the environment.  This plastic can contain a toxic stew of phthalates, lead, cadmium, and organotins. It’s a recipe for disaster.”

CHEJ is releasing its fourth Back to School Guide to PVC-Free School Supplies to help parents make informed and safer shopping choices. More than 35 categories of school supplies, from backpacks to lunchboxes and computers, are covered in the guide. A wallet-sized version is also available.

A few school supply tips to consider

A few of CHEJ’s top tips for avoiding toxic PVC school supplies are:

  • Avoid backpacks with shiny plastic designs as they often contain PVC and may contain lead.
  • Use cloth lunchboxes or metal lunchboxes.  Many lunchboxes are made of PVC, or coated with PVC on the inside.
  • Used cardboard, fabric-covered, or polypropylene binders. Most three-ring binders are made of PVC.

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) contains chemical additives such as phthalates, lead, cadmium, and/or organotins, which can be toxic to a child’s health. More than 90 percent of all phthalates are used to soften PVC products. While phthalates have been banned in toys, they are still used in children’s school supplies and other PVC products.  PVC is also a major source of dioxin, one of the most toxic chemicals known to science.  Dioxin has been targeted for international phase-out by a treaty signed by more than 170 nations.

In response to PVC’s toxic lifecycle, leading corporations such as Apple, Google, Microsoft, Wal-Mart, Target, Sears Holdings and others have pledged to phase out or reduce the use of PVC. More than 100 healthcare institutions are reducing or eliminating PVC.

Get your wallet-sized guide

The wallet-sized version of the guide is available at

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