August is back-to-school time for many, and a good time to discuss safer schools and school supplies. Many "school supplies" are items commonly used by people of all ages, whether at home, school, or work, and the principles used to make a school healthy apply to all buildings. Being aware of less toxic options is important for everyone. Here's some help:
- The Healthy Schools Network is a national environmental health organization focused on ensuring that every child has a healthy learning environment. Informational guides, posters and reports can be downloaded or ordered from their Healthy Schools/Healthy Kids Clearinghouse,
- The Environmental Protection Agency provides information on creating healthy indoor environments in schools. They help schools connect through the National Schools Network and provide an “IAQ Tools for Schools” action kit which can be downloaded or ordered free of charge.
- Schools wanting help designing a non-toxic pest management program can find it on a page associated with The Best Control. The program is available to any school district.
- A group called NonToxic Revolution, concerned primarily with stopping breast and other cancers, offers students help in starting campus clubs.
- The Environmental Working Group offers information on making healthier choices when purchasing a variety of products, including backpacks, lunch boxes, beverage bottles, markers, pencils, pens, notebooks, binders, paper products, and glue.
- The Center for Health, Environment, and Justice focuses on products made with PVC (vinyl). Their back-to-school guide to PVC-Free School Supplies lists less-toxic options for a wide range of common items, including binders, name badges, paper clips, pencil cases, glasses, sneakers, cellphones, computer monitors, flash drives, raincoats, and umbrellas.
- MCS America provides a brief and simple-to-understand factsheet with 10 tips for keeping school environments and chemically sensitive students healthy.
Lowering the toxic load is important for people of all ages, but the younger the student, the more important it is to take the issue seriously. Seemingly small changes in an environment can sometimes make a big difference in the mental and physical state of those who inhabit it. Let’s keep our students healthy and give them the best chance possible to grow, thrive, and learn.