August 28 2012

Killer Backpacks and Other Nonsense

Julie Gunlock

As kids get ready to start a new year of school, parents are being advised to warn their children about the dangers of…school supplies? 

Yup!  Forget about those trendy issues from last year—like bullying, the need to respect trans-gender preschoolers, drug abuse, and teen pregnancy; this year, hand wringing environmental advocates are shedding light on the great danger posed by unregulated three-ring binders, lunch boxes and back packs. 

According to a new report by an advocacy organization called the Center for Health, Environment, and Justice, your kid’s Dora the Explorer backpack just might be trying to kill her.

Seventy-five percent of children’s “back-to-school” supplies tested in a laboratory had elevated levels of toxic phthalates, including popular Disney, Spiderman, and Dora branded school supplies, such as vinyl lunchboxes, backpacks, 3-ring binders, raincoats, and rainboots. The levels of phthalates found in children’s school supplies would be illegal if these products were toys. Just like toys, school supplies are used by young children that are uniquely vulnerable to chemical exposure.

This is a familiar strategy used by these so-called advocacy organization: test products, find chemical residue, scream from rafters that said chemical is present, cry, carry on and freak out public.

But what these organizations manage to leave out of their reports is that the EPA tests these products regularly and sets acceptable levels of phthalate exposure.  Of course, members of moonbat club (like the authors of this report) don’t particularly care what the EPA has to say about the “safe levels” of phthalates (it’s all a conspiracy, you see!). They also don’t care that a 2009 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that phthalates do not pose a health hazard because the chemical is metabolized, excreted quickly and does not accumulate in the body.  The CDC also endorsed the findings in a 2004 and a 2010 study by the Children’s National Medical Center and George Washington University School of Medicine that showed no adverse effects in organ or sexual functioning in adolescent children exposed to phthalates as neonates.

Nor does the report make mention of a recent study, published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, that found animals treated with high doses of the very type of phthalates most commonly used in children’s toys resulted in no changes to the animals’ sexual organs. Notably, the animals were fed high doses of phthalates via feeding tubes inserted into their stomachs which delivered far higher doses of phthalates than a child ever would receive from chewing on a toy.

Which brings us to probably the most damning indictment of this report.  As the CDC notes in its factsheet on phthalates, “people are exposed to phthalates by eating and drinking foods that have been in contact with containers and products containing phthalates.”  Alrighty then.  Look, when my kid starts eating his backpack and nibbling on his three-ring binder, maybe we can have a conversation about phthalates...but then, I think I’d have a lot more to worry about than his chemical exposure.

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