Antibacterial School Supplies are a Rip-Off

Experts say there's no benefit to buying school products coated with antibacterial chemicals.

By Leah Zerbe


avoid school supplies coated with antibacterial chemicalsHere's how to avoid harmful antibacterial chemicals in school supplies.

Learn the code words. For personal care items regulated by the
FDA—products like toothpaste, mouthwash, and soaps—triclosan is listed on
the ingredients label. The EPA is in charge of pesticide regulation of
triclosan in other types of products, such as back-to-school binders,
clothing, rulers, and scissors, but the agency isn't set to take another
look at triclosan until 2013.

To avoid tricloscan in back-to-school products, stay away from ones that use
the terms below. Important note: Not all products that list “Microban” or
“antimicrobial” contain triclosan, but some likely do. The only way to be
100 percent sure that they don’t contain triclosan is to avoid such products
altogether, or to call the manufacturer and ask.

1. Microban
2. Antimicrobial
3. Lexol 300
4. Irgasan DP-300
5. Biofresh (Note: The trademark on this fiber ran out earlier this year,
and there’s no mention of it on the website of its manufacturer, Sterling
Chemical. So it's uncertain how many products containing it are still on the

• Choose safer sanitation methods. For germ control and infectious disease prevention, the recommendations are unanimous among the FDA and major medical associations: Just wash your hands using regular soap and water. (Follow these proper hand-washing techniques to stop the spread of colds and flu.) If you're not near a sink, FDA recommends an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with an alcohol concentration between 60 and 95 percent for effective germ-killing.

• Choose safer products. Look for backpacks made from untreated natural fibers, like those from the company Ecogear, and personal care products from companies pledging to not use triclosan.

For more nontoxic back-to-school ideas, check out's Nontoxic Back-to-School Shopping Guide e-book on sale now!