Green Tip – Back-to-School Shopping

by Wendy Gabriel

GREEN TIP: When back-to-school shopping, avoid buying school supplies containing polyvinyl chloride (PVC or vinyl) or other toxic plastics.

According to the Center for Health, Environment & Justice(CHEJ), PVC plastic is one of the most hazardous consumer products ever created. PVC is dangerous to human health and the environment throughout its entire life cycle, at the factory, in our homes, and in the trash. Our bodies are contaminated with poisonous chemicals released during the PVC lifecycle, such as mercury, dioxins, and phthalates, which may pose irreversible life-long health threats. When produced or burned, PVC plastic releases dioxins, a group of the most potent synthetic chemicals ever tested, which can cause cancer and harm the immune and reproductive systems.

Children are at risk from even small exposures to these toxic chemicals. That’s why it’s important to purchase PVC-free school supplies.

CHEJ recently released this years  Back-to-School Guide to PVC-Free School Supplies to empower all of us to make smarter, healthier shopping choices for a toxic-free future. The guide lists the most common back-to-school supplies made out of PVC plastic and suggests safer PVC-free alternatives.

You can also download the wallet-sized version of the guide here: http://bit.ly/ds4bs1

WHAT TO AVOID:

  • Products that are labeled with the words “vinyl” on the packaging.
  • The number “3” inside the universal recycling symbol.
  • The letters “V” or “PVC” underneath the universal recycling symbol.
  • Other toxic plastics to avoid: polycarbonate (PC), polystyrene (PS) and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastics.
  • If there isn’t any labeling indicating what the product is made of, call the manufacturer’s question/comment line (usually a toll-free 800 number) listed on the package to find out.

For additional information:
CHEJ’s report, PVC: The Poison Plastic.
Beth Terry’s informative summary on the evils of PVC, New Guide to PVC-Free School Supplies.
CNN’s series of investigative reports by Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Toxic America.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

Rather than recycling or tossing PVC items, like old vinyl curtains and floor tiles, in the trash, Mike Schade, CHEJ’s PVC campaign coordinator, recommends disposing of them in hazardous waste landfill sites. Call your sanitation department or state environmental agency to see where you might dispose of hazardous material.

CHEJ also suggests returning PVC products and packaging to retailers and manufacturers. “We recommend consumers contact manufacturers and let them know that PVC is an unacceptably toxic material and that it should not be used in production,” says Anne Rabe with CHEJ. “As consumers, they can also send that message by not purchasing products packaged or made from PVC.” Look for the number 3 in the recycling symbol or the letter “V.”

This is becoming an easier task already. Rabe points out that there are a number of PVC alternatives already on the market. For example, Ikea now sells non-PVC shower curtains exclusively.

Some manufacturers have already heard the calls for a halt to PVC use in production. CHEJ has successfully worked with Victoria’s Secret and Microsoft to eliminate PVC from their packaging and is currently in talks with Target, Sears and Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart has already committed to eliminating PVC in its private-label-product packaging in two years.

Source: CHEJ’s report, PVC: The Poison Plastic

My Green Side’s web pick of the week:

The Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ)
CHEJ’s overarching goal has consistently been to prevent harm—particularly among vulnerable populations such as children. If a safer process, material or product exists it should be used. They believe that everyone, regardless of income, race, religion, or occupation, has a right to live, work, learn, play and pray in a healthy community.

Editor’s Note: Each Wednesday My Green Side brings Simple Tips for Green Living to The Christopher Gabriel Program. We also highlight a favorite green site each week. You can stream the segment at approximately 1020am (CDT) every Wednesday at WDAY.com.

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