Back-to-school items including children's rainboots and raincoats have been found to contain high levels of phthalates - chemicals that are banned for use in toys in the US because of adverse health effects - according to a new report.

The study, 'Hidden Hazards: Toxic Chemicals Inside Children's Vinyl Back-to-School Supplies,' commissioned by the Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ), found that three-quarters of products bought in New York City and tested for the report had higher levels of the toxic chemicals than is deemed safe and allowable by law in children's toys.

Phthalates are primarily used to soften vinyl plastic, and have been linked to adverse health effects like birth defects, asthma, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and diabetes.

However, while banned in toys, there are currently no restrictions on their use in other children's products like school supplies.

Products tested for the research included lunchboxes, backpacks, and three-ring binders as well as children's vinyl rainboots and raincoats.

In particular, the Smart Fit kids pink rainboot contained phthalates levels over 20 times the allowable federal limit for toys; the Disney Rain Slicker - Minnie Mouse raincoat contained over 25 times the allowable limit for toys set by the federal ban; and the Spider Sense Spiderman Youth Rain Poncho was found to be more than 23 times over the limit.

US Senator Charles Schumer, who helped draw attention to the research, is calling on the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to finally approve a list of 'chemicals of concern,' including phthalates - which could be the first step towards their regulation.

The list was submitted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which compiles chemical substances that present or may present an unreasonable risk to health.

He also urged passage of the Safe Chemicals Act, which would require all chemicals to be evaluated for safety and would give the EPA new authority to test and restrict the use of chemicals that cannot be proven safe by manufacturers.