Back to school time is upon us again. At this time of the year parents everywhere reveal their true nature: there is the excited and optimistic kind, longing for the school activities as a relief from a busy summer; and the I-am-not ready-for-autumn kind – which I must confess is probably me – dreading the hectic, early mornings biking the kids to school in the pouring rain.
There's one more thing on my list of "back to school" pet peeves: shopping for school supplies. You know, the lunch box, the rain jacket, the backpack, the gym shoes; the basics. On top of balancing your kid's wants and needs with the actual budget, there is another challenge waiting for us: which products in their wish-list are free from hazardous chemicals?
It turns out, many popular products may contain a whole range of hazardous chemicals.
You would think that the big companies would have thought long and hard about the safety of the chemicals used in their products. Well, it looks like they haven't done their homework right.
Take perfluorinated chemicals, (PFCs), a group of chemicals used, amongst other things, to make products stain or water resistant. These little monsters escape into the air and into our waterways, being transported all over the world – they have even been found in polar bears in the frozen north. PFCs can end up in human blood, can disrupt our hormones and impact on our reproductive and immune systems.
A parent already has so many things to worry about aside from researching the safety of each and every product. Surely we cannot be expected to turn into hazardous chemicals experts during our weekly shopping. Why do companies continue to use these dangerous chemicals, failing to innovate and invest in the existing alternatives?
Some companies are already doing exactly this. Clothing companies like H&M and Mango are leading the way, having already got rid of PFCs. In July this year, adidas, one of the world's biggest sports and outdoor companies, agreed to eliminate 99% of all PFCs by 2017. However, others are lagging behind and continuing to use old fashioned and dangerous chemicals like these.
Together, we can Detox our children's future. When their customers speak out, big brands listen. It's time the industry learnt a lesson here: it has outgrown its outdated manufacturing processes, just like our kids have outgrown their old school uniforms. Let's say goodbye to the little monsters.
Helena Meresman is Digital Mobilisation Advisor for the Climate and Energy campaign at Greenpeace International, and a mother of two.