Today, the nonprofit Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) released new lab results showing that a number of major retailers’ reusable shopping bags contained excessive levels of lead. Of the 44 organizations whose bags were tested, 16 are selling or distributing reusable bags containing lead in amounts greater than 100 ppm (parts per million), which is where many states set the limit for heavy metals in packaging.
National chains such as CVS, Safeway, Bloom, and Walgreens were among those with high levels of lead found in their reusable bags. CVS and Safeway led the pack with 697 and 672 ppm respectively; both were nearly seven times the 100 ppm limit. To date, CVS is the only store that tested above 100 ppm to have recalled their bags. Previously lululemon athletica, Sears-Canada, and Wegmans have all recalled bags due to high levels of lead.
“Across the country legislators are proposing bills to ban or tax paper and plastic bags, but the unintended consequence of such legislation is that people are using reusable bags, which independent testing shows can often contain excessive levels of lead” said CCF Senior Research Analyst J. Justin Wilson. “As an advocate for consumer choice I believe consumers should have the option of using lead-free plastic and paper bags when they’re bringing home their groceries.”
Other retailers testing positive for excessive levels of lead included Staples, Giant Eagle, Piggly Wiggly, Giant, Gerbes, KTA Superstore, Brookshire Brothers, Stater Bros., and, ironically, the District of Columbia Department of Environment.
CCF collected bags during December 2010 and sorted them on the basis of which ones represented grocery chains, national brands, and other brands likely to be recognized by a wide variety of the general public. We made no attempt to homogenize the sample geographically across the United States. Bags that had already been in use by consumers were discarded. Plastic and plastic-coated rigid inserts (which are included in the bottoms of some bags for added stability) were tested separately from the bags themselves, and their heavy-metal concentrations were reported along with the other lab results.
CCF focused on testing bags that were constructed from “nonwoven polypropylene,” which is the most commonly used material in reusable grocery bags. The material is typically made in China and can be produced in a variety of ways that either include or exclude toxic heavy metals.
The testing was conducted by Frontier Global Sciences, a fully accredited testing lab based in Seattle, which handled the samples and established the chain of custody.
"Environmental activists are trying to have it both ways. They've spent decades campaigning against lead in paint, toys, and even packaging, but when it comes to their own sacred cow, they seem willing to ignore the issue," concluded Wilson. "In the end, retailers shouldn't have been goaded into selling these bags in the first place. They were merely doing their best to respond to environmental activists' demands."
For more information or to view CCF’s report on the new testing, visit www.ConsumerFreedom.com. To arrange an interview, call Allison Miller at 202-463-7112.