In which I go all Yosemite Sam

Frickafracka galldarned fanglewrangle pifflepoffle…

[UPDATED 8/21]
Searching for a child-sized non-toxic backpack for Peanut is some serious bullsh*t. Almost all the backpacks out there have PVC and lead, and I’m furious that I have to work so hard to find that most companies are a bunch of corner-cutting liars, thieves, and jackweeds. Not shocked, mind you. Mad.

Phthalates were banned from children’s toys in 2008 (but not other children’s products). PVC (vinyl) and small amounts of lead are allowed in the manufacture of children’s toys and in other products. Despite the hazards of PVC, shocking number of school supplies are still made of this toxic plastic, including binders, backpacks, sheet protectors, paper clips, and rain gear. And offensive as that is, since none of the parents I know are willing to buy products that invite their kids into the worlds of asthma, reproductive problems, cancer, obesity, ADHD, and learning disabilities; lunchboxes and backpacks with PVC have lead, too. That’s because PVC is made with heavy metals. Bonus, special for you today: (at least) two toxins for the price of one! (and don’t get me started on cadmium)

Sorry, what? They’re making stuff for kids to carry around and touch and eat from that are not free of lead or PVC? What the frickafracka glippidygloppedy…

Here’s what I’ve found (in my copious free time for such nonsense):

DwellSmart’s backpack is bigger than a toddler pack and smaller than a big kid pack. PVC-free and non-toxic. Cotton and whatnot. Thank heavens. Also? No chance my kid will want it. I would. But he likes bold and designs. And glitter and sequins and stickers and neon lights on everything. [sigh]

Dwell Studio offers some nice retro-esque prints and an ideal size.

Cute packs for big kids and for little kids by Beatrix are just the right size and fit our non-toxic requirements.

Ah, hemp. Can’t go wrong with natural fabrics, right? Rawganique has a whole selection, including a mini backpack just the right size. As with DwellSmart, small problem with the lack of kid-friendly prints or design. Perhaps they could add just a sweet cotton applique or stitched design? My kid would choose either if they had a stitched robot on the pocket.

Fluf Organics has my personal favorite kindergarten nontoxic PVC-free, lead-free, phthalate-free, BPA-free backpack.

Not Quite:
Wildkin pack-n-snacks are PVC-free, phthalate-free, and BPA-free but don’t specify lead-free. They say they comply with legal standards. That pretty much screams “probably has lead but don’t sue us because we didn’t promise it didn’t” to me. There’s a big difference between lead-free and lead-compliant. Lead compliant means within the legal limit for lead. Federal standards for lead is less than 100 ppm (if they actually found that level feasible, having proposed lowering it from 300 ppm. So complying with federal law means less than 0.03% to 0.01% lead. Lead free, however, means no lead. Given how much energy I’m investing in these kids, I prefer lead free.

Crocodile Creek has some backpacks that are PVC-free, phthalate-free, and BPA-free. Again, they say they comply with legal standards. Less than 100 ppm lead.

Hanna Andersson has a line of PVC-free backpacks, too. They will only say they comply with lead and phthalate regulations, which does not set my mind at ease. Plus, they don’t have any without pink and purple right now, though, and my long-haired, nail-painting, pink-loving son has enough hurdles entering kindergarten that I’m not showing him these.

High Sierra has PVC-free backpacks (and tents, which we found as we searched for a four-person tent [shout out to Butter, y’all!] But I can’t find one for kids and their pack-finding tool at the High Sierra website is broken, so I’m mad at them.

SafeMama, the guru of hunting down companies until they weep and admit their eco-toxic ways has a cheat sheet for us. Naturally.

But everything else out there is too big for my kid or too toxic for anyone.

[aside: if you have someone larger than a kindergartener, you might be interested in this link from Be Safe Net. That, plus SafeMama’s cheat sheet, might lead you to High Sierra and Jansport and Patagonia and Timbuk2 and Ecogear. Maybe not. If you have a smaller dude on their way somewhere important, like school or day care or from one room to another, you’ll check out Mimi the Sardine and Skip Hop zoo backpacks. And CBHstudio, which has the most adorable backpacks I’ve seen, PVC-free, BPA-free, phthalate-free, lead free. Maybe you’ll make your own backpack. Maybe you can send me one and I will be grateful.]

Frickafracka…we’ll see which of the five options I found that work for us, DwellSmart, DwellStudio, Rawganique, Fluf Organics, or Beatrix.

Why can’t we just go to local stores and buy things that are safe?

22 thoughts on “In which I go all Yosemite Sam

  1. Thanks for doing all this legwork! My head is up my ass half the time, so I didn’t even realize all this stuff is unhealthy for my kids. Sigh. Thank goodness I have you to edumakate me, or else I’d be totally lost.

    • Thanks, Unicorn of backpack-y goodness. Gonna add those to Peanut’s choice list.
      Let Me Start, when I get a bug up my butt there’s no stopping me. Which means the children were unwashed, nekid, and uneducated while I researched and wrote this.

  2. Okay, what does one do when a well-meaning Oma sends her only granddaughter a completely toxic Disney Princess pink and magenta nightmare that I just might have to pry out of said granddaughter’s cold, dead hands? Seriously? Not to mention that backpack is a free backpack, and with all the other stuff I have to buy/ sign up for/ sell my soul for, free is looking pretty good. ;-(

    • Oh, Joanna. That’s a tough one. World is full of toxins, right? Car exhaust and whatnot? And maybe Disney is licensing only really honorable Chinese factories? And Oma means so well. And daughter is so happy. Um, can it be so special it’s only for special occasions? I think lying is worse than toxins, so I’d never tell her it was lost just to get rid of it. But others might try it.

      And I don’t know how you feel about talking with Oma so future purchases are safer? That’s hard, too. I try to have a list of companies we like and trust, but the poor grandparents involve are probably terrified to give my kids anything. It’s most likely awful to have an freak like me in the family.

      I wish there were an easy answer. Let it be the one thing you question the safety of, and watch everything else? Hope it doesn’t fit whatever is coming home? Make it only for camping (or soccer or ballet or whatever) so she uses it less? Trade for a pink, sparkly, neon lunchbag that you know is safe and keep the backpack for later/never? Tell her you know she loves it but it has chemicals that could hurt her and you’ll let her choose something else? Wish I could help. There is no right answer once she has a treasured bit of love from Oma. :-(

  3. i love you. or me? cause we must have come from the same scoop of universe when we became people…. my kids were just recently “unwashed, nekid and uneducated” while i wrote: cause i was all yosemite about dress up dolls and their lack of career oriented options for the girl ones….. anyhoo i must thank you because while i was so wrapped up in insisting my daughter grow up to be looked in the eyes i forgot about all the shit they put in backpacks. i seriously just ordered a light blue one from amazon and when it came i was like what is that smell? that can’t be good…. so thanks nap, you’ve got me covered. i mean really, does a woman who won’t use a microwave, adds pureed sweet potatoes to pancakes and has never let a plastic cup touch the lips of her children in her house and mostly in her presence really going to put that smelly thing on her kid?? friends don’t let friends buy pvc, thanks dude.

  4. ps my plan all along was plain backpack in fav color and embroider something cool on it. i haven’t got to yet what yet and i see that my plan may be to have it done by his birthday in november…. but if you’re into it you’ll find something cool at this site.

  5. Yeah! I bought a Jansport for my oldest when he started Kindergarten and let him pick the embroidery for the front pocket. It lasted through third grade and is still decent enough for traveling.

    I scored the big one three years ago at a store closing and bought THREE of those Jansports for less than I paid for the first one. I’m set through high school, I hope.

    TRIPLE SCORE that they are safe…Thanks for the seal of approval and all the research!

  6. Joanna, my first comment still applies, but here’s more:
    I found a site (my SIL recommended it, actually, for car seat toxicity searches) where you can see if they’ve already tested said Backpack from Oma.
    If it’s terribly toxic, make your decision based on that. If not, AWESOME! If they don’t know over at, why then pretend it’s fine.
    Now maybe I’ve actually helped.

  7. Too small? What the hell is Peanut packin?

    And I remember the days of lugging 100 lbs of books home for homework, but geez, that was in high school! starting them young, eh?

    what size are you looking for and I’ll keep looking? I’m taking breaks every hour or so between studying and making my lectures… fun times, fun times.

    Psst, I like these

  8. wow, there’s weird freaky 70’s sci fi music playing in my head right now. i did not see that! i wish i had, i could have cheated and said look at these 2 articles i’ve just read now go to naptime. my kids would have been way better mothered that day. you’ll be happy and equally enraged to know there’s now a julia, all sports gear, and cheerleader… she’s still white.

  9. Thanks, Christine! Talking to Oma is a sticky situation. Both my FIL and SIL work for Disney! Both my kids have been drowning in Disney since they were born. Most of the time I can politely accept the gifts and then squirrel them away to be donated (yeah, here underprivileged kids, have my cast-off toxic crap) or Freecycled. It was really easy with Julian. He wasn’t into all the Disney stuff, and until recently, it wasn’t a problem with Audrey either. Damn you, Disney Princesses!! You slap a princess on something pink or magenta and I am rendered powerless. I did explain how there were bad chemicals in her backpack, and that while it’s very pretty, it might make her sick. She has agreed to a non-toxic lunch bag and snack containers and I can just hope that she outgrows the princess thing by next year. sigh.

  10. Um, can I just ask what the deali-o is with the half nekkid people on the Rawganique site? Wierd. “I think I’ll just take my shirt off and get edu-mi-cated in this here field…”

    Anyway, of all of them I’d go with Fluff. They’re the cutest. But don’t take my word for it- I am the mom who has probably jeopardized the future health of my kids with Land’s End backpacks. ;)

    Good luck with the search!

    • Evenshine, I didn’t read this until just now and we *did* pick the Fluf! He’s all excited.


      (You and I know damned well that the Land’s End is fine, and that there’s more lead in the preschool hose [ours is pvc-free and lead-safe] than ever with a backpack. But I need something to distract me.)

      Thanks for the corroboration on the Rawganique site. I wouldn’t let him look at the site, not ‘cuz I’m a prude, but because it didn’t seem backpack-y so much as compete-with-AF-for-the-erotic-models-y.

  11. HAHAHAHA! Evenshine. Wanna go roll around in the grass with me and a backpack? Oh come on. You want to. It’s all hipster and shit. All the green rage. The more grass stains the better!

  12. Of course. I should have known. Everything is poisoned because it’s profits for people. Nap, you’re my go-to for a reality check. Maybe we should just make our own. Why do I have a bad feeling that all the cool material is going to be posionous too?

  13. nap! this is so last month, but hey, which pack did you go with? is it folder friendly? i went with the ecogear love it but it’s really floppy, his folder is a mess, it ‘just’ fits in there. wondering how you fared?

    • We did the Fluf robots which is folder friendly but the straps are set too wide for his shoulders, so I’m carrying it to and from. Plus…ivory canvas gets muy dirty.

      If we choose again I’ll push him toward the Beatrix.

      Sorry ’bout the folder. Except meh with the folder and the requirements and the toeing the line… ;-)

  14. as a designer by trade i have to say one of my biggest pet peeves is stuff designed for kids, (or people in general) that was obviously never tried on said target group before production!!

    feel same way about the beatrix.

    hear hear!! let there be wrinkles of protest!

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