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Asbestos in crayons? Group finds toxins in popular school supplies

Posted at 1:54 PM, Aug 07, 2018

A new warning Tuesday cautions toxic chemicals were discovered in several popular back-to-school items. Everything from crayons and markers, to binders and water bottles.

The U.S. Public Interest Research (USPIRG) groups tested 27 school supplies and found that some of them contained toxic chemicals like asbestos, lead, benzine and phthalates, which have been linked to cancer and other health hazards.

“You can't assume that things are automatically safe when they're on our store shelves,” says Danny Katz, with USPIRG.

Katz's team found Playskool crayon from Dollar Tree had trace amounts of asbestos. But that wasn't it.

A blue jot band binder from Dollar Tree tested positive for phthalates.  Additionally, dry erase markers from Amazon tested positive for benzine, even though the packaging says nontoxic.

“Just because a product says nontoxic like that, doesn't mean it's been tested for all the different chemicals,” Katz explains.

Katz says what you should look for is a symbol, which confirms the product has been tested and approved by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

His team has put together a list for parents and teachers of products that tested positive for toxic chemicals and those that didn't.

“There's just no reason that these chemicals need to be in the school supplies,” Katz says. “There's plenty of school supplies that don't have them. So we're shining a spotlight on which ones have these toxic chemicals which ones we didn't find in helping teachers and parents to stay safe.”