BOSTON (CBS) – A potentially dangerous chemical might be lurking in kids’ backpacks, lunchboxes, even 3-ring binders.

Now, a Massachusetts woman is pushing for change.

“I’m not alone in being upset and wanting some change,” Lori Alper said.

Alper is upset because many school supplies, including lunch bags, contain phthalates, a chemical banned from all toys in 2008.

“So, if these products were deemed to be toys they would have been found to be illegal,” Alper said.

A new study by The Center for Health, Environment, and Justice found that 75 percent of vinyl school supplies have high levels of phthalates.

Many of the products are sporting kids’ favorite characters like Spiderman and Dora. Alper is a mother of three boys and was so stunned by the report she started an online petition asking , “Disney to really clean up their act.”

Disney may not make the products but they do license some of the popular characters. Alper would like to see the company take the lead on this issue.

“It’s a brand that really has a lot of leverage with kids,”  she said.

After just a few short weeks, the petition has more than 50,000 signatures.

Phthalates are not just a concern for kids. They can be found all around the home in most soft plastics, like shower curtains and shampoos. The chemical has been linked to asthma, ADHD, and fertility issues in men.

The EPA said the agency is “concerned about phthalates both because of their toxicity and because most Americans are exposed to them.”

Alper writes a blog on so-called Groovy Green Livin and tries to avoid chemicals by buying PVC-free products.

“The problem is that the products are not labeled. And they don’t have to be labeled,” Alper said.

The Center for Health, Environment, and Justice also offer a PVC-Free shopping guide.

Disney released a statement saying, “Producing safe and high quality products is our top priority and we meet or exceed all applicable safety standards set forth by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the FDA and numerous other safety organizations. We will continue to closely monitor health assessments and government recommendations on all materials used in our products.”

Parents may not need to wait for companies to make any changes because lawmakers are now pushing to keep this potentially hidden hazard out of all school supplies.


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