Chemistry exam

As if parents don’t have enough to worry about, a number of common school supplies—from backpacks to notebooks and binders—have been found to contain potentially harmful chemicals. There are alternatives to chemical-laden products, however. The Center for Health, Environment & Justice has compiled a list of them for their “Back-to-School Guide to PVC-Free School Supplies.

PVC stands for polyvinyl chloride, a common type of plastic that contains chemical additives such as phthalates, lead, cadmium and organotins, which have been linked to forms of cancer, developmental and reproductive disorders. PVC products are often labeled “vinyl” or “V”—such as in many three-ring binders—and show the number 3 inside the universal recycling symbol.

The guide offers tips on things like paperclips (colored ones are coated with PVC; stick to plain metal), art supplies (many modeling clays have PVC) and lunchboxes (use cloth sacks, metal lunchboxes or those labeled PVC-free). It also provides a list of retailers for specific PVC-free products.

The guide is available in both full and wallet-sized versions at