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Katherine Lee

Some Reusable Shopping Bags Contain Lead

By January 29, 2011

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Do you use reusable shopping bags? If so, you might want to take precautions to make sure they are free of lead and bacteria.

A number of major retailers including Safeway, Walgreens, CVS, and Blooms were among those found to have reusable bags with high lead content, according to a new report by the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF), a nonprofit organization that advocates to protect consumer choices. CCF had "nonwoven polypropylene" bags from 44 retailers tested by an independent lab. The results revealed that 16 retailers had bags with excessive lead, with some bags containing nearly 7 times the amount of the levels set by states for heavy metals in packaging.

To make sure you safeguard your family against germs while you go green, take these steps to make sure your reusable shopping bags are germ and contaminant-free:

  • Check to see if your reusable shopping bag has been recalled due to lead content. Go to the store's website or the Center for Consumer Freedom's website, consumerfreedom.org.
  • Wash your reusable shopping bags! A recent study from the University of Arizona and Loma Linda University in California found that reusable shopping bags can breed dangerous bacteria such as coliform and E. coli. The good news: Washing reusable shopping bags regularly can get rid of these germs and make bags safe to use.
  • For more tips, see "How to Use Reusable Shopping Bags Safely."
  • I'm all for reusable shopping bags. I buy the nylon kind that fold neatly into compact bundles that can be slipped into my bag (my favorite is Envirosax, but there are others). Or you can opt for a cotton canvas tote made from recycled cotton and plastic bottles, such as those from Green Eyed Monster. These bags, unlike the polypropylene bags, do not have lead content. I wash them regularly, and simply keep a few in my purse. This simple habit has significantly cut down on the amount of plastic and paper bags I carry home.

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