Toronto/Falls Church, Virginia – As back-to-school shopping kicks into high gear, two environmental groups are warning parents not to buy products made with polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, which contains chemicals that can cause a range of adverse health effects. A guide released today by Environmental Defence and US-based Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ) helps parents choose safer, PVC-free school supplies in over 20 product categories. Many of the safer alternatives identified, including brand-name food and beverage containers, backpacks, computers, shoes, and some writing supplies, can be found on store shelves across Canada.
“The release of this guide comes just in time for back-to-school shopping, and will help parents avoid filling their children’s backpacks with toxic products,” said Dr. Rick Smith, Executive Director of Environmental Defence and co-author of the recently-released book ‘Slow Death by Rubber Duck: How the Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Life Affects Our Health’.
Polyvinyl chloride, or PVC or vinyl as it is more commonly known, can be found in or on many back-to-school products, including lunchboxes, binders, vinyl backpacks, clothes, and art supplies. It contains dangerous chemical additives, including phthalates, lead, and cadmium, to soften or stabilize it. These chemicals may evaporate or leech out of PVC products, and contribute to developmental disorders and damage of the liver, central nervous, respiratory and reproductive systems. Recent studies have linked PVC flooring in the home to increased rates of autism and asthma in children. Over 90% of all phthalates are used in PVC products such as school supplies.  
There is particular concern about children’s exposure to these chemicals since “numerous studies have found that young children are particularly susceptible to the harmful effects of chemicals released by PVC,” said Mike Schade, PVC Campaign Coordinator for CHEJ.
Canada recently announced that it will set limits on phthalates in vinyl toys and products such as teethers and rattles. However, the limits do not affect children’s school supplies and other phthalate-containing PVC products used or worn by children.
“This guide was created to help parents make informed choices when it comes to back-to-school shopping by suggesting alternatives and offering tips,” said Smith. “Given that many safer PVC-free products are available, parents should try to avoid products made of this chemical concoction wherever possible.”
A copy of the PVC-Free Back-to-School Guide is available to download for free on the Environmental Defence web site at
About Environmental Defence ( Environmental Defence protects the environment and human health. We research solutions. We educate. We go to court when we have to. All in order to ensure clean air, clean water and thriving ecosystems nationwide, and to bring a halt to Canada’s contribution to climate change.
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For more information, or to arrange interviews, please contact:
Jennifer Foulds, Environmental Defence, (416) 323-9521 ext. 232; (647) 280-9521 (cell)