Avoiding Toxic Hazards On School Supply Lists
My son’s school supply list landed in my Inbox last week. Its arrival always engenders mixed emotions – sadness that summer is almost over, excitement that he’ll be back to school soon, and exasperation because the list inevitably includes items that are toxic or have the potential to be toxic to kids. Fortunately, for most of the supplies on his list there are toxic-free alternatives or at least better choices if you know what to look for.
My son’s school supply list landed in my Inbox last week.
Its arrival always engenders mixed emotions – sadness that summer is almost
over, excitement that he’ll be back to school soon, and exasperation because
the list inevitably includes items that are toxic or have the potential to be
toxic to kids. Fortunately, for most of the supplies on his list there are
toxic-free alternatives or at least better choices.
Here are my picks of worst school supply list offenders and some suggestions for easy, safer alternatives.
- Hand sanitizer. I wish schools would take this off the
list. Studies show that simple hand washing with soap and water is just as
effective. But for now, the best we as parents can do is make sure we buy the
safest kind. Hand sanitizers
should be alcohol-based and fragrance-free, without the bad-news pesticide
- Baby wipes and/or disinfectant wipes. Again, these are unnecessary. A rag with soap and water would do the trick. But when buying
wipes, in general stay clear of products containing phthalates, fragrance, parabens,
polyethylene glycols (PEGs), and triclosan. The Environmental
Working Group’s Safe Cosmetics Database rates wipes here.
- Plastic items, including folders, binders, lunch boxes,
and backpacks. When buying plastic school supplies, avoid anything made with
PVC plastic, a toxic plastic that can contain lead, phthalates, and other
harmful chemicals. If you can avoid buying plastic, that’s best. My son’s list specified plastic folders, so I bought polypropylene ones from
Avery. Check out CHEJ’s
comprehensive guide to PVC-free school shopping.
- Dry-erase markers. This is the trickiest item on the list to go low-toxic, but not impossible. Many dry-erase markers contain solvents that aren’t good for students or teachers to be inhaling, and even the “low-odor” ones stink!.The best option seems to be Auspen refillable markers, which are better for kids’ health and environment. The catch is that it takes a little planning and discussion with the teachers before switching because the markers require some time to refill when they run out and cost a little more up front. However, two West Seattle parents got their children’s classes to switch with great results.
I’m pledging this year to talk to teachers and administrators about making the school supply list less toxic next year. So hopefully when the list arrives next August, all parents can shop without worrying about whether they’re sending toxic chemicals to school with their kids.
Got your own suggestions? Add them to the comment section below.
Image courtesy of flickr user stevedepolo