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Study Finds Toxic Chemicals In School Supplies

NEW YORK (CBS NEWS) - Children's back-to-school backpacks and other supplies may contain higher levels of potentially toxic chemicals than the government allows in most toys, a new study shows.

The study found that about 75 percent of children's school supplies contain high levels of potentially toxic phthalates. New York Sen. Charles Schumer called for new laws to regulate the chemical while discussing the report, which was released by the advocacy group Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ) on Sunday. "School supplies are supposed to help our children with their education, they shouldn't be harming their health," Schumer said in an emailed press release. "We don't allow high levels of these toxic chemicals in children's toys and we certainly shouldn't allow them in back-to-school products. When kids take their lunch to school this fall, they shouldn't be carrying it in a lunchbox laden with toxic chemicals."

The CHEJ said that phthalates are a class of chemical used to soften vinyl plastic, that are hazardous at even low levels of exposure. Phthalates have been linked to birth defects, early puberty, infertility, asthma, ADHD, obesity and diabetes.

For the investigation, scientists randomly purchased and tested 20 back-to-school items from New York City dollar stores and other retailers. They found Disney's "Dora the Explorer" backpack contained phthalate levels over 69 times higher than the allowable federal limit for toys. A lunchbox for "The Amazing Spider-Man" contained 27 times the federal limit, while the Disney Princess lunchbox exceeded the toy limit by 29 times.

Children's rain coats, rain boots and 3-ring binders also were found to contain the toxins.

"It's time for Congress to move forward and pass the Safe Chemicals Act to protect our children and schools from toxic exposure," Mike Schade of CHEJ said in a statement.

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