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School supplies: many dangerous substances (ANSES advice)

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Inhaled, ingested or in contact with the skin, many families of chemical substances present in school or office supplies are dangerous to health, warns the French National Agency for Environmental Health Security (Anses) in a press release published July 7, 2022.

Problematic substances

Several studies conducted by Ademe, the Danish EPA, 60 Millions de Consommateurs or UFC Que Choisir have highlighted the presence or emission of chemical substances in school or office supplies.

On the basis of the available scientific literature and exchanges with consumer associations and professional federations of manufacturers and distributors, ANSES indicates that the families of chemical substances most often identified are:

  • 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);
  • fragrant substances. »

Regulations

Neither in France nor in Europe, are school supplies covered by specific regulations governing their composition, manufacture or use to ensure their safety. »

Given their use, certain school supplies such as paint, markers or colored pencils are considered toys, which leads to the prohibition for their manufacture of substances that are carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic for reproduction (CMR).»

Also, the Agency calls for the European regulations on the safety of toys (2009/48/EC) to be applied to all school supplies. This regulatory change will encourage the reduction, or even the elimination, of the majority of substances identified in supplies at the present time, for example perfuming substances, phthalates, certain metals or PAHs.»

The Agency also asks manufacturers and distributors to remove certain substances or families of fragrance substances regardless of regulatory changes. Furthermore, while these items must comply with the regulations in force under normal conditions of use, it recommends that manufacturers take account of foreseeable behavior and uses such as “chewing” to ensure the harmlessness of these products.»

Advice

Pending the implementation of such a regulatory change, I would advise consumers to give preference to supplies that do not contain fragrances, glitter or other artifices that could induce behaviors misused by children, such as “chewing”, or even chewing. ‘ingestion.»

Céline Dubois, Coordinator of this expertise at ANSES.

In 2019, the French Agency for the Environment and Energy Management (Ademe) issued a much more elaborate list of advice on the products to be preferred, the harmful components to be spotted in the composition and use of certain supplies (close containers tightly, ventilate, etc.)

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Psychomedia with sources: Anses (press release), Anses (opinion), Le Figaro, Le Monde.
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