Reusable Lead Bags?

Image: Courtesy of Wegmans
First it was plastic water bottles and BPA. Now Now trace amounts of lead have been found in those colored reusable bags everyone’s (finally) carting to grocery stores in lieu of single-use plastics ones. Chuck Schumer, U.S. Senator from New York, earlier this week asked the Food and Drug Administration, the EPA and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to “investigate and ban” bags with higher-than-acceptable lead counts. 
“When our families go to the grocery store looking for safe and healthy foods to feed their kids, the last thing they should have to worry about are toxic bags,” Schumer said in a press release yesterday.
How did the green totes become eco-targets? In September, supermarket chain Wegmans, with its more than 70 stores in five east coast states, stopped selling two of its reusable grocery bags after “preliminary testing on a limited number of bags suggests there may be elevated levels of lead,” in two designs, the company said in a press release. The bags contained 799 parts per million—more than twice the amount the CPSC currently accepts in children’s products. According to Schumer, a consumer group alerted Wegmans to the lead issue.
After that, the Tampa Tribune had more than a dozen bags tested from other supermarket chains including Winn-Dixie and Publix. Some had unacceptable lead levels, forcing the grocers to ask suppliers to change their bag formulations, according to the Associated Press.
So should you ditch the bags and go back to environmentally detrimental, plastic bag ways? Don’t be concerned about transferring lead from bag to food. Rather, lead could seep into the ground when the bags eventually get chucked. However, if you keep and reuse the bags (and wash them, apparently), you’re still taking a greener step than using many plastic bags once.

“The purpose of reusable bags is to limit waste and do a better job protecting our environment,” Schumer said. “We need to make sure, however, that any reusable grocery bag sold in the United States doesn’t do more harm than good.”

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