Senator Chuck Schumer speaking at news conference on phthalates in children's school supplies. CHEJ's Mike Schade standing to the left. Photo: Kacey Anisa Stamats

Yesterday was a proud day for me.

You see, I had the privilege and honor to stand shoulder to shoulder with U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, one of the most powerful Senators in America, to shine the light on hidden toxic chemicals lurking in children’s vinyl back-to-school supplies.

CHEJ and Senator Schumer partnered together to release the new report I authored, Hidden Hazards: Toxic Chemicals Inside Children’s Vinyl Back-to-School Supplies.

Our new report, co-sponsored by the Empire State Consumer Project, found children’s vinyl school supplies are chock full of toxic phthalates, chemicals banned in toys that have been linked to birth defects and asthma, chemicals that have no place in our school supplies. Chemicals manufactured by corporations like Exxon Mobil and Eastman Chemical.

“School supplies are supposed to help our children with their education, they shouldn’t be harming their health.  We don’t allow high levels of these toxic chemicals in children’s toys and we certainly shouldn’t allow them in back-to-school products. When kids take their lunch to school this fall, they shouldn’t be carrying it in a lunchbox laden with toxic chemicals.” — US Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY)

You can read the Senator’s press release he issued here, and watch this great TV story on Channel 7 Eyewitness News.

Our new investigation shows for the first time that popular vinyl school supplies contain levels of toxic phthalates as high as 69 times over the federal ban on toys.  80% of children’s back to school supplies we sampled contained phthalates, and 75% of them contained levels so high, it would be illegal for companies to sell them if they were toys.

Why are these chemicals banned in toys, but allowed in our school supplies?

It’s enough to make any parent furious.

“As a mom, I am horrified to know that Spider-Man and Dora could be associated with highly toxic chemicals,” said Penelope Jagessar Chaffer, Director of the film Toxic Baby. “As a filmmaker who has worked on this issue for years, I know what the effects of these toxic chemicals are on the bodies of children.  As more and more American moms become aware of this issue, it’s clear that we are going to be using our considerable clout as consumers to buy products that are safe for kids.  These products are not.”

These phthalates were found in Spiderman, Dora, and Disney vinyl back-to-school products sold at Kmart, Duane Reade, Payless and other retailers.  All of the products were purchased during the 2012 “back to school” shopping season, and tested by Paradigm Environmental Services in Rochester, NY.

Check out this slideshow of the products we tested:

Coverage of our new Hidden Hazards report is spreading across the country like wildfire.

Check out just some of these stories from:

We coupled the release of this new report with our 2012 Back-to-School Guide to PVC-free School Supplies, to provide tips on how parents can find safer school supplies free of phthalate-laden vinyl.

The awareness we’ve raised so far has been tremendous, but is not enough.

You see, we need YOUR help.

Can you help get the word out about this issue?  Can you share this on Facebook and with parents and teachers you know?  Can you talk about it at your next PTA meeting?

Perhaps more importantly, we need Congress to ACT.  Senator Schumer has co-sponsored the Safe Chemicals Act, which will help protect American families from hidden toxic chemicals in our children’s products.

Can you write to your Senator today, and ask him or her to join Senator Schumer in co-sponsoring the Safe Chemicals Act?

We can’t do it without you!