Concerns About Lead in Shopping Bags

A recent article in the Tampa Tribune has triggered concerns that some reusable shopping bags contain lead. The Tribune’s investigation found that inexpensive bags made in China came up positive for lead, including those sold in Winn-Dixie, Publix, Sweetbay, Walmart and Target. It is unclear if the lead came from dyes or printed ink on the bags.

Lead is always a concern, but the amount of lead that may rub off the bags was supposedly minimal. The issue seems to have more to do with leaching during breakdown in the landfill, but that hasn’t stopped the plastic industry and related lobby groups from inflating consumer fears.

Senator Charles Schumer has called for a federal investigation. However, rather than targeting reusable shopping bags, a better call would be to support the "Toxic Chemicals Safety Act of 2010" and overhaul the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which has failed to regulate chemicals in numerous consumer products, not just shopping bags.

Worried consumers who have switched back to disposable plastic bags may not have considered the adverse health effects of plastic in the landfill and in the home. Plastic NEVER breaks down completely and leaches numerous toxic chemicals into the soil, air, and water.

Reusable bags made from nylon or other plastic materials are more apt to contain harmful chemicals and harbor bacteria. The best choice is an organic cotton bag made in the USA or Europe.

The reusable bags that the COOP sells [Chico Bags and EcoBags ] are lead-free according to their websites.