Guide to Lead-Free Back to School Products

ABC7, August 5, 2009

For nearly four years, we have been warning you about lead found in
lunch boxes and backpacks. What a difference a few years makes.

Carolyn Cox is research director at the Center of Environmental
Health in Oakland. She demonstrated for us how she puts a pencil pouch
into an x-ray fluorescence analyzer to measure its content for lead and
PVC, a chemical often made with lead, phthalates and other toxics. That
is something parents have been paying a lot more attention to during
the past few years.

"Both my kids had lunch boxes with lead
content stuff so I got rid of them and I'm kind of confused how to not
get it," said parent Wendy Barry-Owen of Oakland.

Cox says parents can feel a sense of relief from the latest findings.

"In our testing this year we found very, very few problems," said Cox.
"We found one backpack with lead problems and then we did find this
pencil pouch with lead problems."

Cox says that pencil pouch
sold by Staples tested 15 times above the federal standard for lead
content. She says an Everest brand backpack sold by Walgreens tested 20
times above the federal standard for lead.

Overall, Cox gives the back to school industry a "B" for getting the lead out.

New federal standards passed by Congress imposed strict lead limits and
multi-million dollar penalties for violators. Successful lawsuits filed
by the Center for Environmental Health and other groups have helped as
well.

Still, parents need to be cautious.

"The other
thing is then there's a wave of new ones that come out that say
lead-free, but then a few months later, you find out that actually
meant something different than you thought," said Barry-Owen,

That's why the new "Guide to PVC-Free School Supplies" is being released.

"Like Jansport, for example. All of their backpacks are PVC-free. L.L.
Bean and Lands End, all of their back to school supplies are PVC-free,"
said Cox.

7 On Your Side talked to Staples about the findings.
It says it will conduct its own tests and decide whether to continue to
sell the pencil pouch within a few days. Walgreens did not get back to
us by deadline.

 

Carolyn Cox is research director at the Center of Environmental
Health in Oakland. She demonstrated for us how she puts a pencil pouch
into an x-ray fluorescence analyzer to measure its content for lead and
PVC, a chemical often made with lead, phthalates and other toxics. That
is something parents have been paying a lot more attention to during
the past few years.

"Both my kids had lunch boxes with lead
content stuff so I got rid of them and I'm kind of confused how to not
get it," said parent Wendy Barry-Owen of Oakland.

Cox says parents can feel a sense of relief from the latest findings.

"In our testing this year we found very, very few problems," said Cox.
"We found one backpack with lead problems and then we did find this
pencil pouch with lead problems."

Cox says that pencil pouch
sold by Staples tested 15 times above the federal standard for lead
content. She says an Everest brand backpack sold by Walgreens tested 20
times above the federal standard for lead.

Overall, Cox gives the back to school industry a "B" for getting the lead out.

New federal standards passed by Congress imposed strict lead limits and
multi-million dollar penalties for violators. Successful lawsuits filed
by the Center for Environmental Health and other groups have helped as
well.

Still, parents need to be cautious.

"The other
thing is then there's a wave of new ones that come out that say
lead-free, but then a few months later, you find out that actually
meant something different than you thought," said Barry-Owen,

That's why the new "Guide to PVC-Free School Supplies" is being released.

"Like Jansport, for example. All of their backpacks are PVC-free. L.L.
Bean and Lands End, all of their back to school supplies are PVC-free,"
said Cox.

7 On Your Side talked to Staples about the findings.
It says it will conduct its own tests and decide whether to continue to
sell the pencil pouch within a few days. Walgreens did not get back to
us by deadline.

 

Watch the Video here: http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=news/7_on_your_side&id=6948504

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