Senator Schumer looking to regulate toxic chemical in school supplies

Many backpacks may contain phthalates.

You may want to think twice before buying everything on your child's back-to-school supply list. Many products, including backpacks, lunchboxes and notebooks, contain toxic chemicals called phthalates.

Phthalates are already regulated in toys, but New York Senator Chuck Schumer thinks school supplies should be no exception. "Why, for instance, would you ban phthalates in a Spider Man action toy, but not in a Spider Man lunchbox or a Spider Man backpack?" said Senator Schumer.

According to the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, phthalates and PVC are linked to long-term health complications, including asthma, obesity, and cancer.

Not everyone, however, sees the chemicals as such a grave health risk. "There's really no risk in handling a bookbag," said Clinical Toxicologist Dr. Alexander Garrard of the Upstate New York Poison Center. "If that were the case, then we'd all have cancer. We would all have diabetes. We would all have these other things. And we're just not seeing that directly related to this."

If you're concerned about these chemicals, some brands are now labeling products as "PVC free," making it easier for consumers to make educated product choices.

The Center for Health, Environment and Justice also recommends not buying notebooks with plastic coatings, backpacks with shiny designs, or colored paper clips. These items may likely be coated in PVC. When in doubt, always check the label.