Five back-to-school items have tested positive for toxic chemicals – including asbestos – according to a release from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.
Those items include Playskool crayons (36 count), Brace Brands children’s Reduce Hydro Pro Furry Friends water bottle, GSI Outdoors Kids’ insulated water bottles, Jot brand blue 3-ring binder and The Board Dudes brand markers.
According to the release, trace amounts of asbestos were found in green-colored Playskool crayons sold at Dollar Tree. Asbestos, which can cause lung cancer and mesothelioma, has recently been found in other children’s products such as makeup. Of the six different types of crayons tested, Playskool crayons was the only brand that tested positive for toxic chemicals. Crayola, Up & Up, Cra-Z-Art, Disney Junior Mickey and the Roadster Racers and Roseart crayons all tested negative for toxic chemicals.
Two recently-recalled water bottles also tested positive for toxic chemicals, research shows. Both the Base Brands children’s Reduce Hydro Pro Furry Friends and the GSI Outdoors children’s water bottles were recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission due to high levels of lead. The Base Brands water bottle can be found primarily at Costco and on Amazon, while the GSI Outdoors water bottle is sold mainly at L.L. Bean. Lead has been known to cause severe developmental and behavioral problems.
Phthalates, which has been linked to causing birth defects, hyperactivity and reproductive problems, was found in the Jot brand blue 3-ring binder sold at Dollar Tree. According to the CPSC, the levels of phthalates found in the binder is considered unsafe for children.
Lastly, benzene, a carcinogen linked to leukemia and disruptions in sexual reproduction and liver, kidney and immune system function, was found in The Board Dudes brand markers sold on Amazon.com.
According to the U.S. PIRG, it is legal to have asbestos in crayons, however, scientists and government agencies say that it is unnecessary to expose children to asbestos. In the release, the research group urges any manufacturers that sell crayons that contain asbestos should issue a voluntary recall and reformulate the ingredients.
“Based on our testing, we know that most manufacturers make safe school supplies,” said Kara Cook-Schultz, U.S. PIRG education fund toxics director. “We’re calling on the makers of unsafe products to get rid of toxic chemicals and protect American schoolchildren.”
Since it is often legal to sell products that contain toxic chemicals, the U.S. PIRG said that parents who buy glue, markers, pencils, rulers and crayons should look for the Art and Creative Materials Institute label, which lets consumers know that the product is non-toxic for children.
For products like water bottles and lunch boxes where there is no label offered, look for a manufacturer’s “children’s product certificate” on the product. That label assures consumers that the product has been tested in a third-party laboratory under specifications set by the CPSC.
On its website, the U.S. PIRG offers consumers a safe-shopping guide, which includes names of stores that sell safe products.