Vermont Schools are Safer but Hidden Dangers Remain in Common
Montpelier, VT – As Vermont families get into back-to-school mode, a group of public health and consumer advocates is releasing a guide to help inform parents of the hidden dangers from toxic chemicals in common back-to-school products. According to the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, state legislation passed earlier this year will help to ensure that less toxic products are used in schools starting this fall. But while the school setting is getting safer, children may still be at risk of exposure to harmful toxins in common school supplies due to inadequate state and federal regulations.
“VPIRG’s ‘Back-To-School Guide for Safer School Supplies’ helps parents steer clear of potentially dangerous products – but ultimately we need to work toward a future where untested and unsafe chemicals never land on store shelves in the first place,” said Lauren Hierl, environmental health advocate for VPIRG. “Although the State of Vermont has in recent years banned several toxic chemicals – like bisphenol A (BPA), phthalates, and lead from specific consumer products, many back-to-school supplies still contain toxic chemicals.”
Vermont’s Green Cleaning law (S. 92) requires cleaning supply manufacturers to sell only environmentally-preferable cleaning products to schools in Vermont. According to Carol Westinghouse, President of Informed Green Solutions, “Prior to the passage of the Green Cleaning legislation, many schools had already begun the transition to safer cleaning products, but some schools were lagging behind in the process. With passage of this law, all children, teachers and staff in Vermont schools are now protected from exposure to hazardous cleaning chemicals – an estimated 48 pounds per custodian per year.”
“Providing a healthy environment for our kids is critical to their development. Using green cleaning products in schools provides kids with healthier school buildings as they begin this school year! The Senate Education Committee is proud of its work with VPIRG to pass the law that made this possible,” said Senator Ginny Lyons, Chair of the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee and Vice Chair of the Senate Education Committee.
Despite the Green Cleaning law’s passage in January of this year, there are still hidden dangers on nearly all back-to-school store shelves. This danger is magnified by the fact that there are now over 80,000 chemicals being used in everyday products in the U.S. “Because potentially risky chemicals remain in products as common as lunch boxes, binders and even paper clips, parents need to know about safer options when purchasing back-to-school supplies for their kids”, says Lindsay DesLauriers of Voices for Vermont’s Children.
“I’m glad to see progress, but as a mom and nurse, I’m dismayed that chemicals known to have adverse developmental affects on children are still present in everyday products. We’re gambling with our children’s health and have no idea what the impact will be. I’m not OK with that and urge our elected officials to protect future generations by reforming our failed system” said Susan Paris of the group, Mama Says.
Heidi Klein of the Vermont Public Health Association (VtPHA) added, “Public health takes the common sense approach that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If we are able to prevent exposure to potentially harmful substances by using effective substitutes we have a sensible and health-protective approach. This is especially important with products in our children’s lives, like school cleaning agents and supplies, as we know that developing minds and bodies are more susceptible and sensitive to toxic exposures. We are on the right path in Vermont. VtPHA supports further efforts to test everyday products with chemical components that have not yet been fully tested for safety and to take a precautionary approach by assuming they might be harmful until proven otherwise.”
Until our broken toxic chemical regulations are addressed at the state or federal level, parents can use VPIRG’s new ‘Back-to-School Guide for Safer School Supplies’ to help them choose healthier and safer products for their children as they head into a new school year.
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