A Back to School Warning: Children’s Vinyl Lunch Boxes Can Contain Dangerous Levels of Lead

Oakland, CA – The Center for Environmental Health (CEH)
announced it is filing lawsuits today against makers and retailers of soft vinyl
lunch boxes that can expose children to harmful levels of lead. The Center has
also notified several other companies of violations under California's toxics law
Proposition 65 (Prop 65) for lunch boxes with high lead levels. The lawsuits and
violation notices against companies including Toys "R" Us, Warner Brothers, DC
Comics, Time Warner, Walgreens, and others involve many lunch boxes featuring
beloved children's characters including Superman, Tweety Bird, Powerpuff Girls, and
Hamtaro. The level of lead in one lunch box, an Angela
Anaconda box made by Targus International, tested at
56,400 parts per million (ppm) of lead, more than 90
times the 600 ppm legal limit for lead in paint in
children's products.

"Lead exposure should not be on the lunch menu when
kids' go back to school this fall," said Michael
Green, CEH Executive Director. "There is no reason to expose
children to any lead from lunch boxes. We are calling on these companies to
recall these products and take action to eliminate lead from their products in
the future." 

Initial independent laboratory testing commissioned by
CEH has already found seventeen lunch boxes with high lead levels, and the
group's investigation is ongoing. In addition to the testing on the Angela
Anaconda lunch box, tests on other lunch boxes showed levels of lead between two
and twenty-five times the legal limit for lead paint in children's products. In
most cases, the highest lead levels were found in the lining of lunch boxes,
where lead could come into direct contact with food. Lead is known to be harmful
to children even in minute amounts, as it can impair brain development and cause
other behavioral and developmental problems. Children may be exposed to lead
from lunch boxes when they eat food that has been stored in them. Handling the
lunchboxes just before eating could also be an exposure risk. 

It is not possible to tell by appearance whether a vinyl
lunch box may contain lead, so CEH is advising parents to avoid vinyl lunch
boxes altogether. "Parents may need to seek out alternatives, since many mass
produced lunch boxes are vinyl or vinyl-lined," said Green. "A reusable cloth
bag would be a good alternative." Parents can find information on how to test
for lead in their children's lunch boxes at home at
www.cehca.org/lunchboxes.

The CEH lawsuits were filed today against lunch box
producers Igloo and InGear, and against retailers Toys
"R" Us, Walgreens, Big Lots, and Ross Stores. Earlier this year, CEH sent
notices of Prop 65 violations to Targus International,
DC Comics, Time Warner, Warner Brothers, Binney &
Smith (a division of Hallmark and the makers of Crayola-brand lunch boxes), Fast Forward LLC, and Holiday
Fair Incorporated. Under Prop 65, companies have sixty days to respond to
violation notices, after which lawsuits can be filed. CEH expects to file more
notifications of lunch boxes that violate Prop 65 in the near future.

For more information about lunchboxes, please click here

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