Plastic products are the single biggest problem when it comes to back to school supplies. Consumers are increasingly concerned about products that are toxic to human health and environmentally unsustainable. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC or vinyl) is a commonly used plastic that stands out as a particular hazard. PVC has been linked to cancer, asthma, developmental disorders and learning disabilities. PVC contains dangerous chemicals including phthalates, lead, cadmium, and/or organotins.
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 over 170 nations across the world. Both Congress and the President’s Cancer Panel have called for greater regulation of such toxic chemicals in consumer product.
Phthalates have been banned in toys, however they continue to be used in a wide range of school supplies. Young people are particularly vulnerable to the phthalates, lead and dioxin in PVC.
Many lunchboxes are made of PVC, or coated with PVC on the inside. Avoid items like lunchboxes or backpacks with shiny plastic designs as they often contain PVC and may contain lead. Inexpensive non PVC alternatives exist including products made of cloth or metal.
Most binders are made of PVC. Use cardboard or fabric-covered, or polypropylene binders instead. Choose spiral bound notebooks with a metal rather than plastic-coated spiral. Use metal paperclips rather than plastic paperclips.
Leading corporations like Apple, Google, Microsoft, Wal-Mart, Target, Sears Holdings and others are increasingly avoiding PVC.
If the purchase of plastic products is unavoidable, check the label for a recycling sign surrounding either a number 3 or the initials PVC. This indicates that the product contains vinyl, and should be avoided.
For a guide to PVC-free back to school products click here.
Make sure to see the article titled, “Comprehensive Green School Information and Resources.”
It contains links to over 200 articles covering everything you need to know about sustainable academics, student’s eco-initiatives, green school buildings, and college rankings as well as a wide range of related information and resources.