Some Reusable Shopping Bags Have Lead

Scrape off the trendiness and a popular “green” choice is actually “gray” underneath; some reusable shopping bags contain lead.

The Tampa Tribune commissioned an independent lab to test the reusable shopping bags of the plasticy, painted-on graphic variety, sold by Winn-Dixie and Publix supermarkets.

In the first batch of tests, Winn-Dixie’s bag had lead levels at 121 parts per million and Publix had 87. In the second, there were 117 and 194 parts per million, respectively.

Right now the CPSC allows 300 parts per million of lead in children’s products, but that level will fall to 100 in August.

Publix has pledged to contact the supplier and ask them to reduce the lead levels. Winn-Dixie told the Tampa Bay Tribune that the results showed the bags were “safe to use and reuse as intended.” Both supermarkets said they would give refunds to anyone concerned about the bags.

Tests show lead levels vary in reusable grocery bags [The Tampa Tribune]


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  1. Bladerunner says:

    I think this needs to be a bigger deal…while these results, taken in isolation aren’t necessarily that bad, at the same time I kind of assumed these bags had NO lead content…why does it have any?

    We need to test more of these, and make sure there aren’t any that are even higher in lead content.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe lead is a common element in dyeing elements (i.e. paint), so there’s all sorts of thing lead could potentially be in because of different colored designs on products.

      That being said, it’s the cheaper method to color items, which it why cheap items (i.e. from China) are usually found to have lead in them.

    • Kate says:

      Lead is the colorant for white paint. Probably these are white printed bags. If that’s where it is, at least it’s on the outside.

    • kenj0418 says:

      “lead content…why does it have any”

      I hear banana’s are radioactive — maybe it’s for our own protection. :-)

    • edman007 says:

      It is no longer used in paint (at least it is very very rare for anything found in the US), now they just use TiO2 which is cheap anyways. The lead is however used in vinyl, it stops PVC from falling appart in sunlight (there are a few other things, but lead is the cheap one), thus it is in most cheap PCV products, especially the rubber on the cheap chinese wires (so don’t chew them).

  2. Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

    Damn, now Tim Minchin will have to change the lyrics of his song to “DON’T Take Your Canvas Bags when you go to the Supermarket…”

    • Brian says:

      RTFA. It doesn’t look like they were talking about canvas bags, at least those without a plastic covering and lots of graphics. I have a stack of plain cotton canvas bags that I bought from Amazon… they hold up very well, and occasional washing takes care of any bacterial scares.

  3. Macgyver says:

    “Right now the CPSC allows 300 parts per million of lead in children’s products”
    Well, these are bags, and there aren’t for kids.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      “but that level will fall to 100 in August.”

      And my children couldn’t possibly ever touch or handle these at all. Or use them no non-grocery purposes. Or handle then while in the grocery cart.

      Nope, no chance for contact with children at all.

    • MPD01605 says:

      It was a baseline against which to compare. I have no clue how to interpret “121 ppm” of lead. But if you tell me what’s allowed in children’s toys, I can compare it to something and understand it better.

  4. Blueskylaw says:

    Lead bags are more durable and don’t make that annoying “crinkle” sound like some potato chip bags do.

  5. Tim says:

    This is definitely a problem, but it would be wrong to take this information and conclude that reusable bags are inherently bad. Instead, the stores should either recall their bags or at least fix the problem for the future.

    • the Persistent Sound of Sensationalism says:

      I think that as long as parents aren’t letting their children chew on their reusable bags, the end of the world can be avoided. Even if parents can’t, we can’t all expect to grow up winners. Someone gets to be the lead poisoned weird kid.

      • Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

        “Someone gets to be the lead poisoned weird kid.”

        Lead-Poisoned Weird Kid? Is that the new Dropped-On-Head Baby?

        • the Persistent Sound of Sensationalism says:

          I do believe it is, since I think dropping a baby on their head is more than a little anachronistic (which eating lead paint should be as well, but whatevs).

    • Cleo256 says:

      It’s just the silly painted bags with fancy designs that have this problem, not the basic ones that just have a store logo.

    • hotdogsunrise says:

      I’ve had bags taken back from Wegmans and then replaced with different ones. It was just a different color and it didn’t seem like the material was any different. I don’t know if it was lead or something else.

  6. 24gotham says:

    Big shocker… Giant mega corporations figure out that greenwashing is profitable and contract out to the cheapest source the manufacturing of low quality lead laden reusable bags, then sell them to customers so they don’t have to spend money on environmentally bankrupt plastic bags under the guise of good corporate stewardship. I’ll bet they even did photo ops with the new lead laden bags being held by children to show how green they are.

  7. rondalescott says:

    Is your use of the adjective “trendy” to describe attempts to decrease our environmental impact an underhanded attempt to criticize them?

  8. fredbiscotti says:

    I’ve never understood why people think that something shipped thousands of miles across the ocean can be good for the environment. A bag made right here in the USA would keep food clean, our neighbors employed and cut our carbon footprint.

  9. borgia says:

    If we do some math I don’t see the problem. Assuming the bag is completely falling apart and there is a 1 percent transfer to a food item that is eaten whole and hard to wash like grapes… The approximate math would work out (ppm of bag)*(estimated weight of Bag)*(percent transfer)/(weight of grapes)=ppm contamination of fruit.
    121ppm*122gm(weight of a bag i Have)*.01(percent transfer)/450gm(3 cups of grapes)=.032 ppm contamination of grapes.
    If we then wash the grapes and remove all but 5 percent of the loose surface contamination. we would have .016 ppm or 16 ppb lead. It is worth noting the regulatory limit in New mexico for lead in drinking water is 15 ppb. So at worst case, the grapes would still be considered safe to eat.

  10. pop top says:

    Around here, most stores carry the kind made from polypropylene, which is safe, so I don’t think that people should stop using ALL reusable bags; just the bags made from whatever these bags are made of. I don’t see anywhere in the article where it mentions what material these bags are made from though.

  11. twitterme28 says:

    I have Aldi’s reusable cloth bags. Love ’em.

  12. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    *sigh* Cut off the nose to spite the face. You just can’t win!

  13. sopmodm14 says:

    if its still reusable, its still green right ?

  14. Cleo256 says:

    From the article: “The bags tested by the Tribune with the highest lead levels tended to have the most elaborate designs or illustrations that covered the entire surface. By contrast, a nylon bag sold by Target with almost no illustrations had almost undetectable levels of lead. Also, the simplest bags from Sweetbay, Walmart and Publix contained little lead.”

    So it’s not reusable bags inherently, it’s the silly vanity reusable bags with painted pictures all over them. Your basic cloth bags are fine.

    • Alessar says:

      Hm, that’s good. I got the cheapest, 100% recycled content bags I could find. They were 50 cents each at Dollar General and are plain black except a 2″ store logo in the bottom corner.

  15. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    Publix and Winn-Dixie are supposedly asking the suppliers to make the bags with less lead.

    How about with NO lead? We can get the lead out of our gasoline, how about the bags?

  16. Memtex784 says:

    If kids can use pillow cases as over sized candy containers why not modify them with handles so you can use them as big tote bags in stores. And there washable :)

  17. prizgrizbiz says:

    First, don’t rub your food on the decoration on the OUTSIDE of the bag. Two, maybe the bag will protect your food better from stray radiation. Third, curse you and the Volvo you rode in on. Fourth, lighten up, Francis.

    • Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

      “Fourth, lighten up, Francis.”

      “Good thing I’m indestructible.”

  18. Griking says:

    Hemp would be perfect for these bags.

  19. human_shield says:

    Made my own out of left over fabric. No really!

  20. lchen says:

    I have nylon reusable bags that roll up into it’s own pouch and fits into my handbag, no prints, no logo, no lead. I always thought the giant stiff plastic reusable bags seem pointless, bags have to be on hand at all times to be used. Another nuisance with bulky bags, they require more space to store.