Back-to-School Enviro-Quiz Challenge

Back-to-schoolTrue or False: PVC is a safe, healthy plastic used in all kinds of back-to-school supplies, including backpacks,  binders, and lunchboxes.

Answer:  FALSE.  Okay, this one was kind of a trick question – although PVC is NOT a safe, healthy plastic, it’s still used in many products!

PVC (polyvinyl chloride) is a commonly used rubbery plastic found in items ranging from pipes and upholstery to clothing and yoga mats. To make PVC more versatile certain chemicals and toxins are added to it, including phthalates and lead. Throughout the life of the product these chemicals may begin to leech out and can cause serious harm.

What does that mean for kids and their back-to-school supplies? Well, being exposed to high numbers of products with PVC in them can be potentially dangerous to children.  

Phthalates may not be easy to pronounce, but it’s easy to spot their danger. They’re one of the most common toxins added to PVC products.  Phthalates break down easily and can leech into air and water. It’s even frequently found in indoor air and household dust! The Environmental Protection Agency reports that longer term exposure to phthalates  has the potential to disrupt the endocrine system, causing reproductive issues, damage to testes and breast tissue, and cancer.

Lead is also commonly found in school supplies, particularly backpacks, pencil/pen pouches, and lunchboxes.   High levels of lead can cause severe developmental issues as well as irreparable damage to the central nervous system. Thankfully, many companies have worked to get lead out of their products and lead is now less common in school supplies than in previous years, according to the Center for Environmental Health.

PVC-3So how can you spot school supplies and other products made with PVC?
Take note of the  three-arrow recycling symbol located on the product. If it has a “3” located inside the arrows, it’s a PVC product. If items are unmarked, steer clear of shiny plastics as they regularly contain PVC. PVC is regularly found in the form of soft, plastic lunchboxes; plastic binders; plastic casing on paper clips; in rain boots and rain jackets; vinyl backpacks and more.

Center for Health, Environment & Justice offers a comprehensive guide on how to rid your back-to-school supplies of PVC.

Additional resources:
PVC: The Poison Plastic Center for Health, Environment & Justice
Lead Exposure in Children Affects Brain and Behavior American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychology


The winners of this month's quiz will receive a prize pack of recycled back to school goodies from Sasquatch!