Lead Paint in Reusable Bags Raises Safety Concerns
A report published last week by The Tampa Tribune that
found reusable bags sold at Publix and Winn-Dixie contained high levels of
lead has led to a flurry of announcements by health officials, politicians,
the chains and the editorial departments of rival news organizations.
health experts told the Tribune and other publications that elevated
levels of lead in the paint on the bags might require special handling in their
disposal. Simply dropping the bags into a landfill could open the door for
lead to find its way into ground water.
New York Sen. Chuck
Schumer asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to
investigate whether the reusable bags pose a danger.
Sen. Schumer said at a
press conference, "Adding insult to injury, guess
where most of these bags are made? China, a country that has flaunted safety
when it comes to American imports over and over again. Whether it’s toys or
food or now bags, China has no regard for American safety."
according to the Tribune, the CPSC allows 300 parts per million
of lead in products made for kids. In August, the CPSC will drop the number
to 100. Any paint on products intended for consumers can not have any more
than 90 parts per million.
The lead levels in the Publix bags tested were within
federal limits, although the company has given associates the leeway to make
shoppers not satisfied with that explanation happy.
Winn-Dixie, which had bags
as high as 121 parts per million, has issued a recall.
"All available research indicates these bags are safe for their intended
customer use," said Robin Miller, Winn-Dixie’s director of media
and public relations, in a statement. "There is a need, however, to look
at this from a long-term environmental perspective to determine if the potential
exists that these bags cannot be disposed of safely. For this reason, we feel
it’s better to stop selling them now."
An editorial on The
Florida Times-Union website took issue with the
initial report and reaction to it. According to the Times-Union, short
of eating the bag, children had little to fear and landfills
were safe because the bags’ lining would prevent any lead from seeping into
the ground water. "Maybe
some experts need to find something constructive to do in life instead of trying
to scare overprotective parents," it suggested.
Consumer Reports offered another take. "There doesn’t seem
to be any proof that reusable bags pose an immediate health threat, either
in our limited screenings or in any of the cited studies, which tend to focus
on concerns that lead from discarded bags could seep into groundwater. Still,
you’re wise to avoid even small levels of lead, especially if there’s any chance
of young children coming in contact with the contaminated objects."
Discussion Questions: What is your reaction to the investigation that found
lead in the paint used in reusable bags sold at Publix and Winn-Dixie? Did the
chains react properly based on the circumstances?
- Tests show lead levels vary in reusable grocery bags – The Tampa Tribune
- Winn-Dixie pulling reusable bags in response to investigation – The Tampa
- Sen. Chuck Schumer calls for federal investigation of reusable grocery
bags – The
- Schumer: Recent Reports Show Popular Reusable Grocery Bags Contain Dangerous
Levels of Lead; Calls for Federal Agencies to Ban Grocery Bags with Lead – Senator
Charles E. Schumer
- Winn-Dixie Voluntarily Withdraws Its Reusable Bags – Winn-Dixie Stores,
- Rants & Raves: Yet another specious cause for worrying? – The Florida
- Consumer Reports tests two reusable grocery bags for lead – Consumer