January 22, 2010
Consumer Watchdog's Lawsuit Sets First-Ever Legal Ban on Lead in Purses
Legal Agreement Establishes Strict Lead Limits for Purses from Four Companies
Oakland, CA- The Center for Environmental Health (CEH) has reached landmark legal agreements with four major companies to end lead threats to women from purses, handbags, clutches and wallets. Last April, CEH announced finding high levels of lead in dozens of purses and handbags sold at several major retailers, including Target, Macy's, WalMart and many others. Today's agreement with Lerner NY (New York & Company), H&M, Tri-Coastal Designs and Haddad Accessories creates the country's first legally binding rules to end high levels of lead in purses.
CEH is pursuing legal action to eliminate lead threats from purses sold by more than 100 other major retailers and suppliers. "We applaud these four companies for their leadership in eliminating health threats to women from lead in purses," said Michael Green, Executive Director of CEH. "With this agreement today, women can know that purses from these companies will ultimately conform to the highest health standards in the country."
A federal law that went into effect last year requires that materials in products for children contain no more than 300 parts per million (ppm) of lead. But there is no federal standard for lead in purses. Under the CEH agreements, purses sold in California from all of the companies will ultimately be made with materials that contain no more 300 ppm of lead, with an even stricter standard for some materials.
Last year, CEH found purses and one wallet from the four companies that, according to independent lab tests, contained between 13 times and more than 115 times the 300 ppm standard reached in the settlement. Testing on a small sample of other purses also showed that weathering can dramatically increase the amount of lead that wipes off of them, suggesting that lead in purses can become an even greater hazard as the purses age.
Lead is listed by the EPA and other federal and state agencies as a cancer-causing chemical, and lead exposure has been linked to higher rates of infertility in women, an increased risk of heart attacks, strokes, and high blood pressure, among other health problems. Scientists are increasingly concerned that there is no safe level of lead exposure, especially for pregnant women and young children.
Recent studies published in the National Institute of Environmental Health Science's peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives demonstrated the impacts that lead exposure during pregnancy can have on a women's unborn child. One study, investigating children's IQ scores in relation to their mother's blood lead level, concluded that lead exposure during pregnancy could have "lasting and possibly permanent effects" on a child's IQ. Another study showed that lead exposure during the first trimester (three month period), when some women are not even aware that they are pregnant, had the most pronounced effects on a child's mental development. A 2009 study showed that chronic low-level lead exposures in young women could lead to impaired mental functioning as they age.
Under its agreement with CEH, purses sold by H&M in California will by March 1, 2010 contain no more than 90 ppm of lead in paint or surface coatings, vinyl (PVC) or leather materials, and no more than 600 ppm in any other materials. By December 1, 2010, the company will phase down the lead levels in all materials to no more than 300 ppm. The other three companies have agreed that by September 1, 2010 their purses sold in California will contain no more than 90 ppm in paint or surface coatings, no more than 200 ppm in vinyl (PVC), no more than 600 ppm in leather (phasing down to 300 ppm by September 1, 2011), and no more than 300 ppm in other materials.
Each company has also agreed to a settlement payment of $35,000, which includes payments to the State of California's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, payments to help fund CEH's ongoing work to educate and protect Californians from toxic health hazards, money to help defer CEH's legal expenses, and $2,000 from each company towards a testing fund to be used by CEH to monitor for compliance to the terms of the agreement.
CEH's legal work has previously uncovered lead threats from toys, vinyl baby bibs, diaper creams and children's medicines, lunchboxes, children's jewelry, automobile wheel weights, and many other products. CEH has a ten-year track record of protecting consumers from hidden health hazards and protecting communities from health hazards related to toxic pollution. CEH also works with major industries and leaders in green business to promote healthier alternatives to toxic products and practices.
Below is a list of companies CEH has notified about high levels of lead in their purses:
5-7-9 (Rainbow Apparel, AIJJ Enterprises)
Accessory Exchange/Bag Bazaar ("No Boundaries" bag supplier to WalMart)
Acme Accessories (Fluff brand bags)
AE Retail West
Aldo (Aldo USA/Aldo Group)
American Eagle Outfitters
Ashley Stewart/Urban Brands
CBI Distributing (supplier to Claire's)
Charming Shoppes (supplier to Lane Bryant)
Chinese Laundry/Cels Enterprises (supplier to Macy's of Chinese Laundry brand bags)
Fantasia Accessories (supplier to Kohl's)
Fashion Shoe Licensin
Foreign Exchange Inc
Fox Head Inc
Global Brand Holdings LLC
Hardy Life LLC
Hobo International/Ray Enterprises (supplier to Bloomingdales)
Jest Jewels San Francisco
Kemistre 8 LLC
Long Rap Inc
Lovely Bag, Inc (supplier to Jest Jewels)
Mango NY/Distex Inc
Marc Ecko Enterprises Accessories
Marc Jacobs Intl
Melie Bianco Accessories
Mondani Handbags and Accessories
Nakajima USA/Sanrio (Hello Kitty brand)
Pacific Sunware (PacSun)
Robert Talbott Inc
Roc Apparel Group
Rosetti (supplier to JC Penney)
Saks & Company
San Diego Hat Company
Super Trader Inc
Ted Baker Ltd
Viewmark USA (supplier to Macy's)
Wilson's Leather Direct
With You, Inc