Contact: Caroline Cox, 510-655-3900 x308; Charles Margulis, 510-697-0615 (cell)
Macy's, Target, Walmart and Other Major Retailers Urged to Eliminate Health Threat from Lead in Purses and Handbags
Oakland, CA-The Center for Environmental Health announced today it has filed a complaint under California consumer protection law against sixteen leading retailers for high levels of lead found in purses, handbags, and wallets sold in their stores. The lawsuit contends that lead in purses poses a health threat to consumers, and can be especially risky for pregnant women, as lead exposure in pregnancy can lead to life-long effects on a child's brain development.
"It is past time for these companies to take immediate action to protect women from this unnecessary lead threat," said Michael Green, Executive Director of CEH. "There's nothing fashionable about carrying a health hazard in your purse."
The Center has also sent pre-lawsuit legal notices to other retailers that sell lead-tainted purses, including Kmart, Bloomingdales, Victoria's Secret, Express, and seven other companies.
Independent laboratory testing commissioned by CEH has determined that many purses and handbags contain lead at levels that exceed California safety standards. A New York consumer protection group also tested ten similar purses purchased from several of the retailers, finding six with high lead levels. The leaded purses tested by the NY group contained from 3,300 parts per million (ppm) to over 53,000 ppm of lead; the latter is nearly 90 times higher than the federal standard for lead in paint.
"Our testing demonstrates that purses with high lead levels are being sold throughout the country," said Judy Braimen, President of RAMP, a Rochester, NY based consumer group. "Most of us believe that the government would not allow dangerous products on store shelves, but sadly, this shows how wrong we are."
Scientists are increasingly convinced that there is no safe level of lead exposure, especially for pregnant women. One recent study found that lead exposure during pregnancy has an adverse effect on the unborn child's mental development, and another study found that exposures during pregnancy had "lasting and possibly permanent effects" on the IQ of the child.
Lead in purses and handbags can come from vinyl and other faux leather materials, or from dyes and pigments used to color the products. Vinyl is called a "poison plastic" as it often can contain lead and poses health hazards from production through disposal. CEH has previously successfully eliminated lead threats to children and consumers from numerous vinyl products, including baby bibs, lunchboxes, and raingear.
CEH is urging consumers to take action: consumers can send an email to the retailers urging them to eliminate the lead threat from purses at http://tr.im/pxeC . The Center also advises buyers to make sure that children do not play with handbags.
The retailers we found selling bags that contain high levels of lead include:
- Forever 21
- New York and Co.
- Ashley Stewart
- Bakers Shoes
- Anchor Blue
- French Connection
- Lane Bryant
- United Colors of Benetton
- Victoria's Secret
The brands of bags we found that contain high levels of lead include:
- Aldo US
- Ashley Stewart
- Urban Brands (Ashley Stewart)
- Chinese Laundry
- Lulu NYC
- Forever 21
- Haddad Accessories
- St. John's Bay
- Nine & Co.
- Nine West
- Apt. 9
- Daisy Fuentes
- Liz & Co. (by Liz Claiborne)
- Dana Buchman (by Liz Claiborne)
- Roxy (by Quicksilver, Inc.)
- Cul-de-sac (Sears)
- Steve Madden
- Xhiliration (Target house brand)
- Urban Expressions
- No Boundaries (Wal-Mart house brand)