The Checkout

Lead in Lunchboxes Update

The Center for Environmental Health is continuing to post victories in its battle to eliminate lead in children's products, especially lunchboxes. Last week, the California public-interest group announced it had reached an agreement with InGEAR, the nation's third-leading lunchbox and cooler manufacturer.

InGEAR has agreed to set a strict standard for reducing lead in all of its vinyl lunchboxes and coolers to below 200 parts-per-million (ppm). It also agreed to stop using polyvinyl chloride (PVC or vinyl) plastic in the interior of lunchboxes since PVC often contains high lead levels.

InGEAR, which sells its lunchboxes at Kmart, WalMart, Sears and JC Penney, is the first company to settle lawsuits brought by the center against retailers and manufacturers after the group tested lunchboxes and coolers from different companies and found more than 30 that contained two to 90 times the federal standard of 600 ppm for lead in paint on toys. One InGEAR product tested at more than 5,700 ppm of lead.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission does not believe the vinyl lunchboxes pose a risk, having tested 60 products and not finding hazardous levels of lead. "Based on the extremely low levels of lead found in our tests, in most cases, children would have to rub their lunch box and then lick their hands more than 600 times every day, for about 15-30 days, in order for the lunch box to present a health hazard," the agency said in a statement posted on its Web site last year.

Even so, states are taking their own action. Last fall, New York's attorney general announced a state recall of lead-tainted lunchboxes by Fast Forward. (Read more about this in my previous item on lead). Meanwhile, Washington and Connecticut have issued warnings that they will work to pull lead lunchboxes from stores in their states and Illinois is negotiating with a number of lunchbox manufacturers, the center said.

By  |  February 24, 2006; 7:00 AM ET Legal Battles/Settlements
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