Phthalates, BPA and heavy metals in notebooks, pencils and felt-tip pens: the alarm on children’s paper from France

The French health safety agency is sounding the alarm about stationery intended for children: still too many chemicals that are dangerous to their health

Marks, pencils, glue, notebooks, watercolors … school and paper materials given to children, especially the very young, can hide many pitfalls and dangers. As parents or teachers, we want to provide our small products that are as safe as possible, but it is not always easy to realize the actual toxicity of products and materials, especially if they are specifically aimed at a child audience.

Indeed, several studies performed on stationery for children have revealed the presence or possible release of potentially harmful chemicals. In the wake of these independent investigations, the French Agency for Health Safety (ANSES) has drawn up an inventory of the current market situation and requested a revision of the legislation on the presence of chemicals in stationery.

Remember that compared to adults, children they make very different use of notebooks, pencils and markers: it is not uncommon for these objects to end up in the mouth, be chewed and potentially ingested or inhaled, or to be in direct contact with the skin of the face, eyes, oral mucosa. It goes without saying that the potential danger of these chemicals is exacerbated if this behavior exists.

On the basis of data collected by independent surveys conducted by consumer associations or federations, ANSES has compiled a list of families of chemical substances most commonly present in stationery (including those intended for children):

  • phthalates
  • volatile organic compounds (VOC) including formaldehyde, chloroform, toluene
  • nitrosamines
  • benzene
  • heavy metals such as hexavalent chromium, cadmium, nickel or lead
  • perfluorinated (PFAS)
  • dyes
  • bisphenol A
  • isothiazolinones and other preservatives
  • polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)
  • perfumed substances

Also read: Children’s cups, watch out for them in melamine: they release formaldehyde and particles in water and food, the confirmation in a Danish test

At present, as in the rest of Europe, there is a lack of specific rules for stationery for schools, which regulate their composition, manufacture and use to guarantee the safety of children.

Due to their sometimes incorrect use, some school materials (such as paints, markers or pencils) they are to be regarded as toys which should automatically lead to a ban on their production of substances that are carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic to reproduction.

That is why ANSES asks application of European rules on toy safety to all school materials (n. 2009/48 / EC). This regulatory change will encourage the reduction or even elimination of most of the substances currently identified in the supplies, such as fragrances, phthalates, certain metals or PAHs.

The agency also asks manufacturers and distributors of remove certain substances or families of perfumed substances notwithstanding legislative changes, manufacturers recommend taking into account predictable behaviors and uses such as “chewing” to ensure the safety of these products.

Until the implementation of this legislative change, I would advise consumers to prefer supplies that do not contain odors, mica or other artefacts that can cause miscarriage in children, such as chewing or even chewing – the press release from ANSES.

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Source: ANSES

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