School Supplies: How to equip your child without risk?

Does your child have a habit of chewing his pen or sniffing his eighteen tubes? These bad habits can pose a risk to his health. In an expert report released this Thursday, July 7, the National Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety (ANSES) revealed the presence of several families of hazardous chemicals in school, home or office supplies. Breathing, eating or skin contact, some of them can have adverse health effects.

Many chemicals identified as worrisome

  • phthalates, chemical compounds are often present in the gums
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including formaldehyde, chloroform, toluene
  • Nitrosamine,
  • Benzene,
  • Heavy metals such as hexavalent chromium, cadmium, nickel or lead,
  • Perflurinated (PFAS),
  • Color
  • In bisphenol A,
  • Isothiazolinones and other preservatives,
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)
  • Perfume

These are available in pens, glue, pencils, correctors but also in notebooks.

There are no specific rules

Faced with this observation, the health agency has called for a review of the law in force. Currently, “School supplies are not covered by specific regulations that allow their design, manufacture or use to be regulated to ensure their safety, not in France or Europe.”, Condemned the health authorities in a press release. Manufacturers only need to guarantee that they are “Safe products for reasonable use by consumers”.

Only certain items considered as toys, such as markers, colored pencils or paints, must meet the regulatory requirements of Guidelines 2009/48 / EC that specifically prohibit the use of carcinogenic, mutagenic or reproductive toxins. And the obligation to specify certain restrictions or certain allergenic substances.

Also, ANSES called for extending this European regulation to all school supplies. That “Identifying will promote reduction or even elimination of most substances”. It asks manufacturers and distributors to remove certain substances or perfume families from now on.

Three tips for limiting health risks

While waiting for the law to change, here’s how to limit the risks.

> Read labels carefully

Although composition labels are often incomplete and difficult to decipher, there are several useful markers:

  • CE identification For products considered as toys;
  • Disaster graphics;


  • Environmental labels Which refers to products that are more respectful of the environment and less harmful to health


> Buy the easiest and least fragrant supplies

Céline Dubois, ANSES coordinator for this expert assessment, recommends parents In favor of supplies that do not contain perfumes, glitter or other artificial ingredients that may induce inappropriate behavior by children, such as “chewing” or even eating.

In a public sheet published in 2019, the Ecological Transition Agency (Ademe) suggests choosing:

  • Natural and abarnish wood colored pencils ;
  • Starch-based adhesives and sticks instead of liquids Or gel (may contain substances that may be dangerous, allergenic or dizzy);
  • Correction tape, instead of liquid Which contain and emit a variety of volatile solvents;
  • Watercolors, instead of acrylic paints Which contains allergenic preservatives;
  • Eraser without phthalates, latex or perfume. If they are flavored with strawberries or chocolate, for example, kids will put them in their mouths;
  • Odorless modeling clay.

> Teach children to use equipment properly

In addition to shopping for supplies, children should be taught:

  • Properly seal the felt;
  • Do not put a brush or pen in your mouth;
  • Do not eat or drink while using school supplies;
  • Wash your hands after finishing painting, drawing or collage activity.

All of these actions will limit the exposure of the young to chemicals.

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