Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York asked federal agencies Sunday to investigate and ban reusable shopping bags with dangerous levels of lead following a Tampa Tribune investigation that found high levels in bags sold in the Bay area.
Schumer, the senior senator from New York, called on the federal Food and Drug Administration, Environmental Protection Agency and Consumer Product Safety Commission to investigate whether any of the reusable bags being sold at groceries and other stores across the country pose a danger.
Because the bags are being used to carry food, high lead levels pose a danger to the country’s food supply, Schumer said in a letter addressed to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg.
Lead is linked to learning disabilities in children and fertility problems in adults. Health advocates say any level of lead is toxic.
The lead found in the grocery bags the Tribune tested would not easily rub off on food, and merely touching one of the bags is unlikely to prove harmful, according to Hugh Rodrigues, president of Thornton Laboratories in Tampa, which tested the bags. Over time, though, as the bags wear down, their paint can flake off and threads fray, releasing the lead. The more elaborate the illustrations on the bags, the more likely they are to contain toxic lead, the Tribune investigation found. Yellow and green paint on bags is a common carrier of lead.