Re-usable shopping bags are getting more popular -- and coming with their own problems. Image: Flickr / theshoppingsherpa / CC-BY-ND

The consumer advocacy group Consumer Freedom has released a new report about re-usable shopping bags. The report identifies re-usable plastic bags as a lead exposure risk. This risk is especially pertinent because some cities are banning single-use bags.

Lead found in re-usable shopping bags

In December of 2010, Consumer Freedom, an advocacy group, collected re-usable shopping bags being sold at various retail locations. The majority of collected bags were made of polypropylene, a plastic material usually produced in China. The bags were sent to Frontier Global Sciences, a testing laboratory in Seattle. The lab found that about 36 percent of stores were selling bags with a lead lead content of more than the 100 parts per million limit for heavy metals in packaging.

Dangers presented by lead

Lead is a heavy metal that is often found in manufacturing processes. The Consumer Product Safety Commission, EPA, and States have a patchwork of led regulation that limits the amount of lead in packaging, drinking water, and products. Exposure to high levels of lead can cause fatigue, irritability, insomnia, low attention span, increased blood pressure, anemia, hearing loss, and more. The lead in a plastic reusable shopping bag is not likely to leach into food, but long-term exposure is possible.

Recalls after Consumer Freedom report

After the release of the Consumer Freedom report, CVS instituted a recall of their polypropylene shopping bags. Several national chains, such as Safeway, Walgreens, Bloom, Piggly Wiggly and others still carry the bags. Each state would need to individually investigate the claims of these lead-filled bags in order to force a recall. The easiest way to prevent lead exposure from these bags is to purchase or make re-usable bags made of cloth, rather than plastic.

Sources

EPA: http://www.epa.gov/superfund/lead/health.htm#Fed%20Recs
USA Today: http://content.usatoday.com/communities/greenhouse/post/2011/01/buying-lead-free-reusable-shopping-bags/1?csp=34

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