Kermit had it right: It's not easy being green. Some reusable shopping bags — staples of the eco-friendly lifestyle — may contain harmful levels of lead. A recent study by the Center for Consumer Freedom, a group that opposes plastic-bag bans, found " high levels of lead " in reusable shopping bags sold at 16 major retailers, including Safeway, CVS, and Walgreens. Safeway's bags led the pack with lead amounts measuring 672 parts per million. A bag CVS recalled in November had lead levels of 697 ppm . In most states, the legal limit for heavy metals in packaging is just 100 ppm.
Bags sold by Staples, Giant Eagle, Piggly Wiggly, and even some environmental agencies also contained lead levels above 100 ppm. While a study conducted by a pro-plastic-bag group is somewhat suspect, this recent news isn't the only troubling report: Another study, by the Center for Environmental Health, found lead levels 15 times higher than federal limits in bags sold at Safeway. Even more disturbing, these particular bags were emblazoned with Disney characters, which means they likely ended up in households with young children.
The good news is that some stores have already recalled or pulled bags; others insist that they now test for lead. But until we can be sure that all reusable bags are free of toxins, we certainly understand the frustration of a shopper quoted in the New York Times: "It's still not good enough. Are we going to have to start using string?"