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Back-to-school brings new anxiety

August 28, 2018 12:00 am

The thousands of Twin County students heading back to school in a little more than a week have enough to worry about. Now there’s more: Toxic substances in their school supplies. Their parents have a right to ask what is going on and to demand answers.

U.S. Sen. Charles B. Schumer is calling on the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission to analyze school supplies for the presence hazardous chemicals and to take action as swiftly as possible.

A report released Aug. 7 by the nonprofit United States Public Interest Research Group showed several common school supplies contain potentially harmful substances such as asbestos, phtalates and lead. The report sounds alarms about products as mundane as crayons and looseleaf notebooks — items students and their parents take for granted as being safe.

The findings listed in the report are shocking. A 36-pack of Playskool crayons tested positive for tremolite, a type of asbestos and a known carcinogen. A Jot Blue binder contained phtalates, which have been linked to aberrant development of the male reproductive system.

One skeptic is U.S. Rep. John Faso, R-19, who called much of the report “unfounded and needlessly provocative.” But he added that protecting children from toxic exposure is critically important and called on the Consumer Product Safety Commission to work with the school supply industry to ensure the products children use are safe.

Parents are left to wonder if their schools or what students take into their classrooms are safe. Families with school-age children worry about high property taxes, the qualifications of teachers, the quality of the education their children are receiving, bullying, school shootings and now, carcinogens in the crayons. Such angst runs contrary to the excitement that should accompany the start of a new school year.

Parents hoping for less anxious times deserve to know how potentially dangerous substances got into their children’s crayons and notebooks and if any agency or watchdog group can make these products safe.