Lead in Children's Lunch Boxes

Article on Lead in Children's Lunch Boxes.

Study says children tote lead in lunches

Oakland group finds high levels of toxin in vinyl boxes used by youngsters
Inside Bay Area

Tucked in with their peanut-butter sandwiches and juice sits an unexpected and potentially hazardous item in some children's lunchboxes.

A study by an Oakland-based environmental group found harmful levels of lead in a quarter of the soft vinyl lunchboxes tested.

The Center for Environmental Health found that 27 lunchboxes an at-home detection kit. The group then sent those 27 products to an independent laboratory for more rigorous had high levels of lead when tested with testing; that study found 17 of the lunchboxes contained lead in excess of federal safety standards.

One lunchbox, made by Targus Group International Inc. and featuring the children's character Angela Anaconda, was found to contain more than 90 times the legal limit for lead in paint in children's products. The Center for Environmental Health has advised parents to avoid vinyl lunchboxes or to purchase a home test kit to check for lead. Such kits sell for about $3 and can be found on the Internet and in hardware stores.

Michael V. Ward, vice president and general counsel for Targus, said last week that the Anaheim-based company had only recently become aware of the potential hazard and was checking with its supplier to determine if the product wastested for lead.

"I'm not certain it does or doesn't contain lead," Ward said of the lunchboxes.

Lara Cushing, the center's research director, said lead was once commonly added to vinyl plastic to prevent degradation.

"The industry is moving away, but there are some, obviously, that have not chosen to do so.

"It's not bound up in the plastic," she added. "It's sloughing off. It can come off on your hand. It can rub off on your food."

The group in recent years has found unsafe levels of lead in some imported Mexican candies and in children's jewelry.

The private nonprofit group specializes in identifying hazardous sources of lead in the environment.

A neurotoxin, lead is considered unsafe at any level. Even small amounts can build up in the body and cause lifelong problems, according to the California Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Branch.

Fetuses and children younger than 6 are at greatest risk because their brains and nervous systems are still forming.

Officials for the Consumer Product Safety Commission said last week that the agency was investigating the Center for Environmental Health's findings on lead in lunchboxes.

A representative for the California Department of Health Services also said the agency was aware of the lunchbox study and was looking into the findings.

The Center for Environmental Health has displayed photos of the lunchboxes on its Web site, https://www.cehca.org.

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