- PVC. AKA vinyl and labeled as #3 plastic, is the number one offender and one of the most harmful. According to Healthy Child Healthy World, PVCs have been liked from skin irritation, asthma, ADHD, to cancer. Many soft lunch boxes, backpacks, art aprons, and many more contain PVC. A good indicator is if it’s a soft plastic, it is most likely PVC.
- Phthalates. PVC’s partner in crime. Phthalates are used to soften vinyl plastic and they are released into the air, they have been found in dust particles to breast milk and in higher levels in children ages 6-11. A good indicator is if you can smell it, you are inhaling phthalates.
- Lead. Lead likes to hang out wherever PVC is. Lead is often one of the additives used in the cocktail of toxins used in the manufacturing of soft plastics, and is often used as a stabilizer. During the process of “off-gassing” the result are VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, and lead is often one of the toxins found in the air contributing to poor indoor quality (read my article on how to improve indoor air quality).
- BPA. I believe this is one toxin most people are familiar, a hormone disruptor that can cause early puberty, reproductive problems, and obesity, among others. As opposed to PVC found in soft plastics, BPA is usually found in hard plastics (think plates, cups, bottles) but can be also found in cans, sandwich bags, and dental sealants. (Be weary of “BPA-free” plastics, too, The Mommypotamus has a good article about it.)
- Triclosan and Microban. Antibacterial and antimicrobial respectively, they harm the beneficial microorganism that call our bodies home, not too mention they are incredibly harmful to our environment (read more here). You can get my recipe for a natural and alcohol-free hand sanitizer here.
- Solvents. These are found in aerosol sprays, permanent markers, glues, acrylic paints, and pretty much anything that it is scented. The problem with these is that they are released into the air as VOC’s.
What to look for?
- Packpacks and lunch bags free of PVC, phthalates, and led. Here are some good options.
PVC and BPA free
- Natural dyes and renewable materials
- Lunch gear made from stainless steel, silicone, packed in reusable bags.
- Pack food and snacks free of pesticides, and artificial ingredients. Don’t miss part two of this series, we’ll talk about what are the safer options when packing lunch as well as a round-up of tasty lunch recipes and snacks, easy to make and pack!
- Nontoxic arts and crafts supplies. Don’t miss part three of this series, we’ll talk about the toxic truth about “nontoxic” arts and crafts supplies, and what truly the safer options are.
- Organic cotton school clothes, or gently used clothing.
What Can You Do?
- Get involved. Whenever your time allows it, volunteer in school to be aware of what it is used around your children, or simply ask questions.
- Get informed. Learned what the safest options are from cleaners to food.
- Get other moms involved. There is strength in numbers, rally other moms and ask the school to switch to safer cleaners, safer arts and crafts supplies, and to serve healthier foods in the cafeteria. I can’t remember who it was, but a couple of years ago I read a blogger had started a committee of parents to help the school give the cafeteria a Real Food makeover!
This post can be seen at: Small Footprint Firdays,