LORAIN COUNTY, Ohio (WOIO) - A donation by the Lorain County Prosecutor’s Office is causing health concerns after the backpacks were found to have labels stating they may contain potentially carcinogenic materials.
The Lorain County Prosecutor’s Office said the donation was in collaboration with Project Outreach to “Give Back with Backpacks,” helping students in grades K-3 in Clearview Local Schools, Elyria City Schools, and Lorain City Schools.
On Tuesday, Elyria City Schools posted on Facebook that “some of the materials inside the backpacks—and the backpacks themselves—contain labels which indicate the materials may contain potentially carcinogenic compounds.”
The labels are in compliance of Proposition 65, or the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986.
The California law requires businesses to provide consumers about significant exposures to chemicals that may cause health concerns such as cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm.
Lorain County Prosecutor Dennis Will sent a letter to the three school districts that said the markers, colored pencils, crayons, folders, and backpacks purchased through a California supplier and distributed through the Give Back with Backpacks program contain the Proposition 65 labels.
Prosecutor Will also stated that the Attorney General of California “specifically states that the fact that a product has a Proposition 65 Label does not mean that the product is unsafe or even prohibited from sale in California.”
A letter provided to Elyria City Schools by the Lorain County Prosecutor’s Office from a DollarDays International, Inc., a distributor of some of the donated items, said:
“Our Forward backpacks are manufactured using polyester, as are water bottles, swimwear, winter coats, and more. Polyester is one of over 900 chemicals the state of California requires to include a Prop 65 warning label. The label is not intended to scare, but rather comply with California law and inform consumers in the state of California.”
Although the same backpacks were distributed to three districts, they are each handling the donations differently.
“...the Clearview Local Schools district will send home permission slips allowing parents the option of receiving or not receiving the backpacks and supplies. Some backpacks were given out during Open House and Vincent Elementary School on August 20, 2019. Each backpack contained a letter from Prosecutor Dennis P. Will explaining Proposition 65. IF YOU RECEIVED A BACKPACK DURING OPEN HOUSE AND YOU DO NOT WANT THE BACKPACK AND SUPPLIES, THEY CAN RETURN TO VINCENT ELEMENTARY SCHOOL.”
“...Elyria Schools has decided not to distribute these backpacks and supplies to students. The backpacks are still available if parents are interested in inspecting them and deciding on their own if they would like to take one for their student. The backpacks will be available for parents to inspect during open houses...Elyria Schools is also making standard supplies available on its own after the start of the school year...”
Lorain City Schools sent out a letter to the district on Tuesday that stated:
“Recently, it has been brought to our attention that some of the school supplies, provided to the district by Lorain County Prosecutor Dennis Will’s office, have health warnings on them. Although the items state clearly on the front that they are non-toxic, warning labels on these items caution against potential cancerous and reproductive harm. A letter from the Persecutor’s Office provides more information about the labels and California Proposition 65.
As a district, we are deeply grateful to Prosecutor Will and his office’s generosity shown with the providing of these supplies, the organizing of the packing of backpacks and the distribution to each of our elementary buildings. It is through this gesture our district has been assured that our scholars will not go without, from their first day of school, in regards to supplies.
But in the same token, the Lorain City School district feels it must outweigh the generosity and necessity by putting the safety and concerns of our scholars and staff as its first priority.
It is through the belief of safety is paramount over any other need, that the district has decided not to distribute the items with the label—including crayons, colored pencils, boxed markers, color folders and the backpack itself.
The items that have the warning will returned to the Prosecutor’s Office. The items without the warning will be distributed as building principals see fit.
The district is working diligently to provide backpacks to our scholars in grades k-3, as well as the needed school, supplies. More details about this will be provided at a later date.”