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Source: Newsday

Call for probe into lead in reusable bags from China

BY CAROL POLSKY

Posted: November 15, 2010
Originally Published: November 14, 2010

High lead levels in reusable bags intended as eco-friendly alternatives to plastic bags is the latest toxic surprise in consumer goods manufactured in China, and Sen. Charles Schumer is calling on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to investigate and regulate it.

"We've asked for an investigation so the public and supermarkets know which bags have the lead and which don't," he said, adding he'd asked the FDA to determine a level at which the lead content is dangerous and "ban anything above it."

While reassuring consumers that no imminent danger is posed by lead leaching out of the bags, most of which are relatively new, Schumer (D-N.Y.) said bags could degrade over time.

He said it would be difficult to determine which bags were unsafe by looking at them, but, he suggested, "The vast majority that have been found to have unsafe levels of lead are made in China. China has a history of flouting our safety rules."

A bag replaced by Wegmans, a Northeastern supermarket chain with no stores on Long Island, was found to have more than 700 parts per million, far above levels considered acceptable. The study by TEI Analytical, an Illinois-based laboratory, found that half the reusable bags made with nonwoven polypropylene, most of it manufactured in China, contained levels above 100 parts per million, violating federal standards for lead content in paint at 90 parts per million. In August 2011, permitted levels for lead in children's toys will drop from 300 to 100 parts per million.

Sunday, reusable bags were still on the shelves at many Long Island stores, although no information was available on the lead content, if any, in their products.

Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said consumers should not abandon the use of reusable bags. "There's plenty of reusable bags out there made from organic cotton, hemp and other nontoxic materials, and it's like anything else, the shopper has to be smart."

Lead can lead to learning disabilities in children and infertility problems in adults.