Lead in Reusable Shopping Bags

Lead in Reusable Shopping Bags
The Tampa Tribune recently reported on their lead testing of reusable shopping bags at some of the largest nationwide supermarkets. All tested positive for higher than recommended levels of lead. According to the newspaper, “The bag contains enough lead that Hillsborough County could consider the bag hazardous if thrown out with household trash, according to independent laboratory tests commissioned by The Tampa Tribune.”

Those that tested positive in the newspaper’s investigation were bags at Winn-Dixie, Publix, Sweetbay, Wal-Mart, and Target. Since then, CVS has also found lead in their 99 cent green color cloth bags. As a result, CVS has ordered a voluntary recall of these bags. Publix has asked the supplier to lower the lead content in the bags. Winn-Dixie has not made any changes; they contend the bags are safe to use. However, both Winn-Dixie and Publix are offering rebates to anyone who wants to return their cloth reusable shopping bags.

New York Senator Charles Schumer has called for an investigation by the Federal Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission to take action. Senator Schumer wants federal agencies to place a ban on lead in grocery bags.
The question is … are these bags safe or not? However, think about how your hands are in contact with the bag. In addition, food may leak into the bag. Many of us unconsciously put our hands in our mouths at one point or another. If this occurs, you could be introducing lead into your body either directly or through food. Lastly, what about our young children who hold these bags? If they’re putting their hands in their mouth, they’re contaminating themselves too.

Technically, since no harm has been shown from the use of these bags, it’s a personal decision you make regarding their use. However, it is important to note that there is no true “safe” amount of lead in humans. Consider returning them for a refund, if you have them. For those of you who are “green” shoppers, buy an old-fashioned cloth beige bag for your shopping needs or use paper. You can still go green by going brown.

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About Nancy M. Silva, MD, FAAP

I'm a Board Certified Pediatrician. I've been in practice since 2000. I'm happily married with two children. I graduated Medical School from the State University of New York (SUNY) Downstate College of Medicine in Brooklyn, NY. My Pediatric Residency training was at University of South Florida, College of Medicine. I've been in private practice since 2000. As a medical student, I had the privilege to care for children at Kings County Hospital & Downstate Medical Center in urban Brooklyn. As a resident, I cared for children at Tampa General Hospital & All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida. These experiences helped shape the Pediatrician I am today.

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