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School supplies, beware danger!


They contain problematic substances and are not regulated enough, warns ANSES. Le Figaro gives you some advice to equip your children without risk.

Triturated, chewed, sucked, sniffed... In the classrooms, glues, erasers, notebooks and other pens suffer many outrages.

However, these school supplies sometimes contain chemical substances of concern, and are not subject to specific protective regulations for children, alert in a notice published Thursday by the National Health Security Agency (Anses).

The Agency took up the question itself following

“several studies carried out by French or European organizations”

, explains Céline Dubois, scientific coordinator of the expertise at ANSES.

Phthalates, volatile organic compounds, nitrosamides, benzene, metals, dyes, preservatives and perfumes have thus been found in numerous products.

But the question is

"very poorly documented, with scant scientific literature"

, regrets ANSES


Clearly, we do not really know what these products contain, and even less the associated risks, both in direct contact (through skin, saliva, etc.) and through indoor air.

As for alerts from the European Safety Gate system, their number is

“low but constant over the years”

and it

“depends on the collection campaigns carried out by the control authorities”

, which

“raises concerns about the safety of these articles”


No specific regulations

However, they may be handled on a daily basis by children who spend 25% of their time in class, with some exceptions (felt pens, finger paint, etc.), they

"do not fall under any specific regulations, whether for their composition, their manufacture or their use”

, notes ANSES.

Manufacturers only have to guarantee that they are

"safe for the intended and reasonable use by the consumer"

, which obviously does not include chewing a pencil or sniffing a tube of glue... ANSES therefore considers that these products largely intended children should obey

“the regulations imposed on toys, particularly on the chemical level”

, indicates Céline Dubois.

We are told about CO2 sensors, air purifiers, opening windows… But never about mechanical ventilation!

All classes should be equipped with them, but a study showed that this was the case for only 11% of them.

However, this is the only way to ensure a general and permanent renewal of air.

Dr Suzanne Déoux, ENT doctor and specialist in medical ecology and building health engineering

Dr Suzanne Déoux, ENT doctor and specialist in medical ecology and health engineering in the building industry, conducted the "Trouss'air" study to help the city of Grenoble put in place sanitary facilities in its public purchases of school materials.

She notes that while allergenic substances could be easily eliminated and while there are still some very problematic products (ketone-based inks, glycol ethers in gel glues, etc.),

“there are far fewer catastrophic products than 'a few years ago'


To change the regulations,

"political decision-makers must take up the subject

," says Suzanne Déoux.

And beyond direct contact with these products, we should also be concerned about the quality of the air that children breathe:

“We are told about CO2 sensors, air purifiers, opening windows… But never mechanical ventilation!

All classes should be equipped with them, but a study showed that this was the case for only 11% of them.

But this is the only way to ensure a general and permanent renewal of air.

Tips for choosing lower-risk school supplies

• Read labels

Reading labels can be complex and tedious, but it's still useful.

Be careful though, when it comes to school supplies, this is not enough: manufacturers have no obligation to report the chemical substances contained in their products, and some are more transparent than others... sometimes in defiance of their own interest!

The fact that a label indicates the presence of potentially problematic substances does not therefore mean that the product concerned is worse than the neighboring product which does not specify anything on its label...

• Rely on labels

The labels have no regulatory force, but they offer guarantees on the stamped products.

In a sheet produced in 2019 based on the results of the Trouss'air study carried out for the city of Grenoble, the Environment and Energy Management Agency (Ademe) thus recommends labels

"which certify that the products are more respectful of the environment and limit or prohibit substances harmful to health”


This is particularly the case for the NF Environnement label for writing materials (pencils, pens, markers, markers) and erasers;

and the Ecolabel for stationery (notebook, diary, paper).

• Beware of fun products...

It is necessary

"to favor supplies that do not contain artifices such as perfumes, sequins"

, insists Céline Dubois at Anses.

Scented erasers, glittery pens or glue

"promote misbehavior in children"

with untimely chewing and sniffing that promote exposure of the body to risky substances... Choosing color pencils made of unvarnished natural wood avoids expose children to phthalates from varnishes.

Beware also of the use of certain products such as paints, resins or Indian inks which,

“considered as articles of art, are subject to a regulatory exception that may contain dangerous substances”


• Prefer stick glues

In a practical sheet published in 2019, Adem recommends vegetable glues, mainly made from starch;

some even comply with the European standard on toy safety (NF EN 71-3).

Beware of preservatives such as isothiazolinones or IPBC, skin allergens present in almost half of the glues according to the Agency.

Liquid or gel glues may contain substances that are dangerous, allergenic or liable to cause dizziness.

• Tape correctors and phthalate-free erasers

Liquid correctors

"contain and emit a very wide variety of volatile solvents"

, and some water-based ethylene glycol and ammonia, says Ademe;

it is therefore necessary to prefer roller skates in the shape of a mouse, whose emissions are very low.

Gums can contain a large number of potentially problematic substances, which are not always specified on the packaging;

Ademe recommends choosing vinyl plastic erasers, or rubber erasers mentioning the absence of latex.

• Felt-tip pens, pens, markers

Some markers and colored pencils are considered toys: if they bear a CE marking, they comply with Directive 2009/48/EC which guarantees the absence of carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic substances for reproduction, and certain restrictions or obligation to mention certain allergenic substances.

Pen ink, as well as markers, bearing the NF Environnement mark will emit fewer VOCs.

In the markers, pay attention to the labeling, and be able to recognize the symbols indicating a flammable or toxic risk (a flame or an exclamation point inscribed in a red diamond).

Source: lefigaro

All tech articles on 2022-07-06

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