Twenty-one reusable bags sold as alternatives to disposable plastic or paper bags had dangerous levels of lead, according to new test results provided to USA TODAY.
The non-woven-polypropylene bags, sold by chains including Safeway, Walgreen’s and Bloom, all had lead content above 100 parts per million — the highest level that many states allow in consumer packaging. The tests were conducted by Frontier Global Sciences for the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF), which plans to release the results Monday. The group tested 71 bags and inserts from 44 retailers and organizations.
Often it was the bags’ inserts that contained the high lead levels. The Safeway bag inserts had the highest level of lead — 672 ppm — behind only CVS bags recalled in November. Earlier this month, the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) reported finding lead levels 15 times the federal limit for kid’s products in Disney-themed Safeway reusable bags.
Safeway said Friday night it was pulling the O by Organics reusable bags from sale while it awaits information from the bag maker. It recommends throwing away the bottom insert. It stopped selling the Disney bags, as well.
Bloom says it stopped offering the bag tested in November and will refund anyone concerned about the bag. Walgreen’s says it now tests for lead and other toxins, and all current bags pass. It sells several bags and wasn’t sure exactly which bag CCF tested. For all tested bags, go to www.consumerfreedom.com.
CENTER FOR CONSUMER FREEDOM: Reusable bags contain harmful chemicals
CENTER FOR ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH: Disney reusable bags have high lead levels
CCF is part of a public affairs firm owned by Richard Berman, who has represented the restaurant industry and runs ads critical of unions. CCF only says it is funded by “businesses, foundations and consumers.”
CEH says there is no safe level of lead exposure, which can lead to brain and kidney damage.
Bruce Lanphear, a public health doctor who has testified before Congress about lead exposure, says “it’s hard to quantify” the risk of bags’ lead, but notes lead builds up in body tissues and that levels once thought safe are not.
“It just doesn’t make sense to allow a poison to be used in reusable bags,” says Lanphear, a health sciences professor at Canada’s Simon Fraser University.
Food and Drug Administration spokesman Douglas Karas says the agency would need more time to review the results, but would “expect the use of safe materials” in bags. Still, he says lead in some bags “would present little or no likelihood of migration to (packaged) food.”
While CEH and CCF are both testing for lead in reusable bags, CEH favors bans on disposable bags that the business-funded CCF opposes. CCF wants to show the “unintended consequences” of “fad legislation.”
Thirteen cities and Los Angeles County ban the use of disposable plastic bags, and Washington, D.C., has a five-cent tax on them. Environmental groups favor bans or fees for disposable bags, especially those made of plastic, because they can last hundreds of years and harm fish and animals.
The American Chemistry Council, which is pushing recycling instead of bans or fees, has also paid for testing showing bacteria in reusable plastic bags. The group says it is for “consumer choice” and that people need to know that they have to wash the bags between uses.
“It’s an interesting irony for them to say that we should stay away from plastic bags,” says CEH’s Charles Margulis.
Other retailers and organizations with bags or bag inserts tested by CCF that had lead levels above 100 ppm include: Giant; Giant Eagle; KTA Super Stores; Staples; Piggly Wiggly; Brookshire Brothers; Gerbes; Stater Bros.; University of Oregon; the Defense Commissary Agency; Washington, D.C., Department of the Environment; and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
Publicada: 23 de Enero 2011