Back to School PVC Free

Summer just arrived it seems like and you have to start planning for back to school.  It can be a costly expense and so many parents have a tight budget these days.  However, the cheapest might not be the best option for your child or the environment.  School supplies have chemicals in them.  Have you ever used a marker or glue and gotten a headache?  Ever opened up a pack of paper and smelled a chemical smell from the ink on the paper?  These things may seem harmless but when you look at the overall usage it adds up.  School projects are usually a requirement in each grade and the products your children use for these special assignments, as well as everyday school work, will be inhaled and absorbed into the lungs/ skin of whomever uses them.

PVC is found in so many products such as lunch boxes, rain coats/boots, notebooks and backpacks. It can also be found in modeling clay, colored paperclips, notebook binder rings, and markers. Sometimes it is easy to spot, other times not.  If it has a 3 in the recycle symbol it is PVC. It may also have a “V” in it or just say PVC or Vinyl. You may have to call the manufacturer to find out.


PVC is toxic because it contains chemicals such as phthalates, cadmium, lead, organotins which leach out into the air and are breathed in by your children when they use these products.  Phthalates are used to soften or plasticize the plastics.  If you have ever purchased a vinyl shower curtain and opened it,  had a strong odor, you’ve experienced the toxic off gassing of PVC.  PVC is not only toxic in it’s use, but also the production and disposal.  If burned/melted it can be extremely toxic because dioxins are released and these dioxins have been linked to cancer, immune dysfunction and fertility issues.  We don’t know the extent of all the harm it does our bodies yet, and children are still developing and are more susceptible at low levels.   It is very important to avoid these when possible.

In 2008 the government passed a law on the ban of Phthlates in toys, but they did not cover the PVC in school supplies

Here are some suggestions on how to avoid PVC:

  • Look for labels that says PVC free
  • Avoid vinyl products
  • Look for the 3 inside the recycle symbol
  • Avoid other plastics such as (PS) polystyrene, (ABS) acrylonitrile butadiene styrene
  • Look for products that are not plastic such as bamboo, wood, nylon, paper or fabric etc.
  • Avoid buying  polymer clays that are made of PVC such as Fimo or Sculpey
  • Avoid one use disposable bags and other plastic items- buy re-usable
  • Buy stainless steel, glass  drinking and eating containers or buy biodegradable plastics such as corn plastic
  • Bamboo is another great, hot item in the school supply market now: Ipad holders, laptop cases or portable flash drives
  • Look for recycled content in notebooks such as recycled cardboard
  • Look for natural rubber or Silicone substitutes for plastic
  • Buy used items


As parent’s we want the best for our children and yet, we can’t always buy the purest of products for them.  Every step we take in the purchase of non-toxic products sends a strong message to the manufactures of these toxic products.  Every step you take towards giving your child a more healthy environment makes a difference.  So, don’t give up because you cannot buy all non-toxic school supplies.  You may also find, with a little advance planning, a supplier that offers affordable eco friendly school supplies that is comparable to mainstream toxic counterparts.   Keep in mind when shopping the main toxic ingredients and the most toxic names for those so that you can avoid the worst of the chemicals found in school supplies.