BOSTON (CBS) - A potentially dangerous chemical might be lurking in kids' backpacks, lunchboxes, even 3-ring binders. And now a Bedford mom is pushing for change. "I'm not alone in being upset and wanting some change," says Lori Alper. Lori is upset because many school supplies, including lunch bags, contain phthalates, a chemical banned from all toys in 2008. "So, if these products were deemed to be toys they would have been found to be illegal," says Lori.
A new study by The Center for Health, Environment, and Justice found that 75% of vinyl school supplies have high levels of phthalates. Many of the products are sporting kids' favorite characters like Spiderman and Dora. The Bedford mom of three boys was so stunned by the report she started an online petition asking , "Disney to really clean up their act."
Disney may not make the products but they do license some of the popular characters. And Lori would like to see the company take the lead on this issue, "it's a brand that really has a lot of leverage with kids." After just a few short weeks the petition has more than 50,000 signatures.
Phthalates are not just a concern for kids. They can be found all around the home in most soft plastics, like shower curtains and shampoos. The chemical has been linked to asthma, ADHD, and fertility issues in men. The EPA tells us the agency is "concerned about phthalates both because of their toxicity and because most Americans are exposed to them."
Lori writes a blog on so-called Groovy Green Livin and tries to avoid chemicals by buying PVC-free products. But it's not always easy she says, "the problem is that the products are not labeled. And they don't have to be labeled." The Center for Health, Environment, and Justice also officer a PVC-Free shopping guide.
Disney released a statement saying, "Producing safe and high quality products is our top priority and we meet or exceed all applicable safety standards set forth by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the FDA and numerous other safety organizations. We will continue to closely monitor health assessments and government recommendations on all materials used in our products."
Parents may not need to wait for companies to make any changes because lawmakers are now pushing to keep this potentially hidden hazard out of all school supplies.
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