Can School Supplies Make Your Children Sick?

Sending your kids off on their first day of school might normally be a relief from a chaotic summer. But a new study has just found that the expensive school supplies you’ve purchased might actually be toxic. It turns out dozens of products on store shelves — from school supplies to clothing — contain far more potentially toxic phthalates than the FDA would normally allow in toys.

Phthalates, even at low levels, can be toxic. They can lead to birth defects, infertility, asthma, diabetes, and more. Here are some of the products you may want to investigate a bit further for toxins.

Asian female teacher teaching mixed race kids reading book in classroom,Kindergarten pre school concept.

Are you sending your child to school with toxic school supplies? | Weedezign/iStock/Getty Images


A study tested 20 back-to-school items from New York City stores at random and found that 75% of the tested items showed higher-than-normal toxicity levels. According to CBS, one Disney princess lunch box contained 29,800 parts per million (ppm) of a toxin known as DHEP. For comparison, a toy is only allowed to have around 1,000 ppm or less of this toxin. A Spiderman lunch box contained 27,900 ppm.


Lunchboxes weren’t the only culprits. A Dora the Explorer backpack — a common choice among young kids — contained 16,200 ppm of DEHP and 69,200 ppm of another phthalate known as DNoP. (The FDA also limits toys to no more than 1,000 ppm of DNoP.) The FDA limits toys because children tend to put them in their mouths, so it might be assumed that a backpack wouldn’t warrant as much danger. However, having such toxic items in the home could be still dangerous, such as for a teething baby who might not notice a difference between a fun toy and a bright backpack. A Spiderman backpack, WWE backpack, and a “The Brave” themed backpack (for the movie) also contained significant amounts of toxins.


Several binders came under fire for their toxicity levels, too. A pink hard binder was tested and contained 6,100 ppm of DEHP on both the inside and outside of the binder. In a separate test, a white binder also contained the toxin. The binders were purchased mostly at dollar stores, but the study did investigate other retailers’ products as well. Again, most children might not ingest any part of a binder, but it’s important to make sure your kids are safe when you send them back to school with new supplies.


Certain crayons were found to contain asbestos, which is a harmful material that has been proven to cause diseases like cancer. Playskool, a brand owned by Hasbro, produced crayons that, when tested for toxins, contained tremoline. Tremoline is a type of asbestos that can be very dangerous if ingested or inhaled. The study tested six different brands of crayons, but Playskool was the only brand that contained the toxic material.

Rain boots and rain jackets

Besides school supplies, school clothes and accessories also contained toxins. Smart Fit brand’s kid rain boots contained significant levels of both DEHP and DNoP, according to CBS. The rain boots tested were from Payless. A Disney rain slicker and a Marvel Spiderman rain poncho were both tested and contained significant amounts of toxins as well. The group responsible for the study, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund, requested that all items be pulled from store shelves.

Check out The Cheat Sheet on Facebook!