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Polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, is a major source of phthalates – which are the same dangerous plastic softeners banned from children's toys last year.

2008 law banning phthalates from children's toys does not cover the PVC in school supplies
The 2008 law banning phthalates from children's toys does not cover the PVC in school supplies, with which our children come in contact on a daily basis.  

Phthalates harm children's health and development by interfering with natural hormone functioning and have been linked to birth defects in baby boys, testicular cancer, liver problems, and early onset of puberty in girls – which is a  risk factor for later-life breast cancer. 

Why worry about PVC-free school supplies?
Many children's school supplies, such as lunchboxes, backpacks and binders, can be made out of PVC-a toxic plastic that is dangerous to our health and the environment. 

PVC contains dangerous chemical additives including phthalates, lead, cadmium, and/or organotins, which can be toxic to your child's health. These toxic additives can leach out or evaporate into the air over time, posing unnecessary dangers to children.

Here are some school supply shopping tips you can start using today:
CHEJ Back-to-School Guide to PVC-Free School SuppliesThe Center for Health, Environment, and Justice (CHEJ) - through its ongoing campaign "PVC: The Poison Plastic - The Campaign for Safe, Healthy Consumer Products" -- has posted its "2009 Back to School Guide to PVC-Free School Supplies" to help you avoid dangerous PVC products when back-to-school shopping.

To download the complete guide, click here.

To download a pocket-size guide to carry with you when you shop, click here.

Below are some examples of school supplies which are OK and which to avoid.

Pictures of OK products


Pictures of PVC products to AVOID

PVC Labeling

PVC products are often labeled with the words "vinyl" on the packaging, such as vinyl 3-ring binders. plastic 3-ring binder 
vinyl 3-ring binders 
PVC can also be identified by looking for the number "3" inside, or the letters "V" or "PVC" underneath, the universal recycling symbol. Just remember, bad news comes in #3's, so don't buy PVC! recycle 3 pvc symbol 
 leather binders with metal rings Make sure the binders have metal rings. These colorful binders are leather with metal rings.


Avoid backpacks with shiny plastic designs as they often contain PVC and may contain lead. plastic backpacksbackpack with plastic decor 
fabric appliqued backpack train backpack with cloth appliques  Fabric backpacks can have cloth appliqués to make them attractive and safe.

Art Supplies

Modeling clays are often loaded with phthalates. colorful clay can have lead in it 
Crayola air dry clay  Look for clays made without PVC and phthalates like Crayola Air-Dry clay.


Avoid notebooks containing metal spirals encased in colored plastic. The colored plastic coating on the metal spirals usually contains PVC. coated vinyl plastic notebook stretch PVC spirals 
metal spiral notebooks  Select notebooks with uncovered metal spirals to avoid PVC.

Paper Clips

Most colored paper clips are coated with PVC. coated paper clip colored paper clips 
metal paper clips  Stick to the plain metal paperclips, unless you can see that they are clearly made of colored metal.


 Shoes similar to (or “knockoffs”) Crocs, like the Kamik Doodle, are made with PVC. Many of the charms for Crocs are also made with PVC. Kamik Doodle rain shoe Kamik Doodle Boot 
Crocs Nike glow boots 
LL Bean shoePuma Shoes  
Crocs are PVC free; and all Nike, Puma, and L.L. Bean shoes are PVC free. (clockwise from top: Crocs, Nike, Puma, L.L.Bean)

Unfortunately, items made from shiny plastics and vinyl have PVCs in them most of the time, so just check before you buy!


transparent bag handbag cosmetics bag 
Clear bag                Shiny handbag        Cosmetics bag
Google flashdrive keychain PVC lunchbag PVC tapes 
PVC flashdrive        Plastic lunchbag        Vinyl tape
PVC pencilcases PVC chair raincoat
PVC pencilcases     PVC chair           Plastic raincoat 
vinyl CD sleeve magazine holdertoy figures banned 
Vinyl CD sleeve     Vinyl magazine holder   Banned PVC toys
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