Heavy metal poisoning could come from re-usable shopping bags

Sunday, January 20th, 2013 By

Photo of reusable shopping bags.

Re-usable shopping bags might have health risks. CC by Mr. T in DC/Flickr

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. There is a 100-parts-per-million limit for heavy metals in packaging, and  36 percent of bags were found to have more than that.

Lead problems

Most of the time, the heavy metal lead is found during the manufacturing process. There are several groups out there making sure the amount of lead in drinking water, packaging and products is limited. These include states, EPA and the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Fatigue, irritability, insomnia, low attention span, increased blood pressure, anemia, hearing loss and many other symptoms can result from ingesting lead or other heavy metals. It’s rare that lead from plastic re-usable shopping bags seeps into food items. Still, Consumer Freedom deems these bags unsafe and recommends consumers stop using them.

Recalls after Consumer Freedom report

CVS did a recall of its polypropylene shopping bags after the Consumer Freedom report came out. There are many national chains that sell the bags but haven’t done a recall. These include Safeway, Walgreens, Bloom and Piggly Wiggly. The claims of lead-containing bags have to be investigated by each state. This is the only way a recall can be enforced. The easiest way to prevent lead exposure from these bags is to purchase or make re-usable bags of cloth, rather than plastic.

Articles cited

EPA

USA Today

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