U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has asked the Food and Drug Administration, Environmental Protection Agency and Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) “to investigate and ban reusable shopping bags that contain higher than acceptable levels of lead.” According to a November 18, 2010, press release, Schumer issued letters to the agencies after third-party testing purportedly revealed “higher than acceptable levels of lead” in reusable grocery bags manufactured in China. The senator has expressed concern that “food products come into direct contact with these bags and long-term exposure can pose serious health and environmental risks.”

Schumer’s announcement also cited “several reports” claiming that “a significant number of reusable shopping bags contained over 100 parts per million (PPM) in heavy metals. In some cases, bags contained as many as 5 times the allowable limits.” These reports evidently suggested that “the paint on leadfilled bags has the ability to peal and flake off, coming into direct contact with exposed groceries, like fruits and vegetables,” and affecting both human and environmental health.

“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. We cannot allow manufacturers, in China or elsewhere, to sell reusable bags to grocery stores that bring our food into contact with high levels of lead,” stated Schumer. He also hailed the quick actions of Rochesterbased Wegmans Food Markets Inc., which replaced 725,000 bags after the Empire State Consumer Project “found that the green bags contained lead at 799 parts per million – more than double the amount allowed in children’s products by the CPSC.” See The New York Times, November 14, 2010.