As the first day of school is fast approaching, a new study by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group(USPIRG) found harmful chemicals in everyday school supplies that could be in your child’s classroom or backpack.

Here’s what all parents should know about this new report:


The study tested six brands of crayons for asbestos, the toxic building and insulation material that causes mesothelioma, a deadly cancer. One major brand, Playskool Crayons, had detectable levels of asbestos.

These findings are consistent with EWG Action Fund’s 2015 report that found traces of asbestos in crayons and other children’s toys sold nationwide.


USPIRG tested a number of markers for toxic volatile solvents such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene, which are petroleum substances also found in fracking wastewater.  EXPO scented and The Board Dudes dry erase markers had detectable levels of these harmful chemicals.


Three binder brands were tested for phthalates, plastic-softening chemicals that have links to early puberty in girls and harm to the reproductive system. The brand that tested positive for phthalates was Jot 1-inch 3-ring binders, which are sold at Dollar Tree.

In 2008, the Consumer Product Safety Commission banned six phthalates in children’s toys, and in bottles, cups and pacifiers for children 3 years old and under, yet these chemicals are still found in products children use on an everyday basis. 

Water Bottles

USPIRG also highlighted two water bottles that tested positive for lead and were recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The two bottles in question were Base Brands Children’s Reduce Hydro Pro Furry Friends water bottle sold on Amazon and at Costco and the GSI Outdoors Kids’ insulated water bottles sold at L.L. Bean.

Lead is a potent neurotoxin that impairs children’s intellectual development and alters their behavior and ability to concentrate. As the lead crisis in America rages on, we recently learned that testing for lead in the water of both primary schools and day care centers is woefully lacking.

Stay tuned to the EWG Children’s Health Initiative site for the latest breaking news and analysis on all things regarding kids’ health.

By Robert Coleman, Project Manager EWG (August 28, 2018).