Consumer Advocacy Groups Discover Lead in Reusable Bags

State senators have introduced a two-cent plastic bag tax that, if passed, would give consumers yet another reason to tote their reusable bags to the store. But consumer advocacy groups have been discovering lead in some types of reusable shopping bags. The Allegheny Front's Estelle Tran has more about what's inside your shopping bag.

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OPEN: State senators have introduced a two-cent plastic bag tax that, if passed, would give consumers yet another reason to tote their reusable bags to the store. But consumer advocacy groups have been discovering lead in some types of reusable shopping bags. The Allegheny Front's Estelle Tran has more about what's inside your shopping bag.

TRAN: Whether it's the threat of a bag tax or eco-consciousness, more and more shoppers are bringing reusable bags on shopping trips. But some say these bags could be harmful to our health and to the environment. The FDA's not so sure...

The Center for Consumer Freedom says that 16 of 44 bags tested from chain stores had lead content from just over the legal limit to nearly seven times the limit for packaging materials allowed by many states, including Pennsylvania. The 16 stores included Giant Eagle, Staples, CVS, Wegmans and Walgreens. The Center for Environmental Health recently found lead in reusable shopping bags marketed to children...These were smaller totes depicting Disney characters.

Lead is a neurotoxin that can interfere with brain development when ingested.

The bags found to have lead content are mostly non-woven polypropylene bags made in China. They have a mesh feel and often have flat-bottom inserts and painted logos -- both of which are sources of the lead.

The Food and Drug Administration does not consider reusable grocery bags to be a food safety hazard. The agency's tests found that the lead did not readily transfer to the packaged food contents in the bags, and that most of the lead was on the exterior of the bag.

Still, Michelle Naccarati-Chapkis, executive director of Women for a Healthy Environment, recommends simple alternatives.

NACCARATI-CHAPKIS: Look for relatively plain bags -- so, bags that don't appear to have that glossy finish. Perhaps you might want to remove that insert because it has been tested in containing lead. Look for a canvas or cloth bag instead or something made from nylon.

TRAN: CVS is the only store that recalled totes with high lead content, but some stores are offering replacements. For The Allegheny Front, I'm Estelle Tran.