June 3, 2010

Handbags Made With Dangerous Amounts of Lead

We sincerely hope that you aren't carrying a purse coated in lead! Why? Because imitation leather and vinyl handbags have been found to contain dangerous amounts of lead.
Photostock via freedigitalimages.net

In January of 2010, the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) reached a landmark settlement involving lead content in purses from well-known brands and stores.

Today, women are  being urged to check the brand labels on their purses against the list at the end of this article. If your vinyl purse is on the list, it may contain dangerously high levels of lead. CEH urges people to discontinue use and handle the bags with care.

CEH, a non-profit consumer watchdog group, tested purses from 100 of the nation’s top retailers and found disturbingly high levels of lead. Some of the brightly-colored handbags contained 90 times more lead than has been deemed safe. Doctors say the greatest concern with lead is exposure to children, pregnant women and women who hope to become pregnant. However, no amount of lead exposure is truly safe for anyone. The CEH reached the first ever settlement with stores to legally limit lead in bags they sell to you, the customer.

A law went into effect in 2009 that limits lead content in toys and other products for children to no more than 300 parts per million (ppm). However, there is currently no federal standard for lead in purses. Under the CEH agreements, purses sold in California from all of the companies will ultimately be made with materials that contain no more 300 ppm of lead, with an even stricter standard for some materials.
Last year, CEH found purses and one wallet from the four companies that, according to independent lab tests, contained between 13 times and more than 115 times the 300 ppm standard reached in the settlement. Testing on a small sample of other purses also showed that weathering can dramatically increase the amount of lead that wipes off of them, suggesting that lead in purses can become an even greater hazard as the purses age.

Where is the lead in my purse? While some people assume that lead is only found in clasps, buckles, and other handbag hardware, most of it is in the coloring of the bag itself-- in the vinyl or colorful plastic coating. Lead is a cheap (and dangerous) ingredient that is sometimes added to pigments to make colors bright and vibrant. Measures have been taken to prohibit lead as an ingredient in children's plastic toys, and in paint, but not yet in women's purses.
Why is lead poisoning so dangerous? Lead is listed by the EPA and other federal and state agencies as a cancer-causing chemical, and lead exposure has been repeatedly linked to infertility in women, an increased risk of heart attacks, strokes, and high blood pressure, birth defects, and mental retardation, among other health issues. Scientists are increasingly concerned that there is no safe level of lead exposure, especially for pregnant women and young children.
Recent studies published in the National Institute of Environmental Health Science's peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives demonstrated the impacts that lead exposure during pregnancy can have on a woman's unborn child. One study, investigating children's IQ scores in relation to their mother's blood lead level, concluded that lead exposure during pregnancy could have "lasting and possibly permanent effects" on a child's IQ. Another study showed that lead exposure during the first trimester (three month period), when some women are not even aware that they are pregnant, had the most pronounced effects on a child's mental development. A 2009 study showed that chronic low-level lead exposures in young women could lead to impaired mental functioning as they age.

Below is an alphabetical list of companies (including brands and stores) that CEH has notified about high levels of lead in their vinyl and plastic coated purses. Please check this list for any vinyl purses, wallets, handbags, clutches, etc. that you own!

5-7-9 (Rainbow Apparel, AIJJ Enterprises)
Accessory Exchange/Bag Bazaar ("No Boundaries" bag supplier to WalMart)
Acme Accessories (Fluff brand bags)
AE Retail West
Aldo (Aldo USA/Aldo Group)
A-List Inc
American Eagle Outfitters
American Procurement
Amici Accessories
Amity/Rolf's Inc
Ashley Stewart/Urban Brands
Audigier Brands
Baekgaard Lmtd
Bag Bazaar
Bakers Footwear
Bebe Stores
Billabong Retail
Brown Shoe
The Buckle
Burleigh Point
C&J Clark
CBI Distributing (supplier to Claire's)
California Onax
Calvin Klein
Charlotte Russe
Charming Shoppes (supplier to Lane Bryant)
Chenson Industrial
Chinese Laundry/Cels Enterprises (supplier to Macy's of Chinese Laundry brand bags)
Coldwater Creek
Cole Haan
CVS Caremark
Diesel USA
Dress Barn
Eastbay Inc
Ecko Direct
EFashion Solutions
Element Skateboards
Fantasia Accessories (supplier to Kohl's)
Fashion Bug
Fashion Shoe Licensin
Foot Locker
Foreign Exchange Inc
Forever 21
Fox Head Inc
French Connection
Furmir LLC
Global Brand Holdings LLC
Hardy Life LLC
Hobo International/Ray Enterprises (supplier to Bloomingdales)
Hot Topic
Indonesian Imports
JC Penney
Jest Jewels San Francisco
Jill Stuart
Jones Apparel
Kate Spade
Kemistre 8 LLC
Kenneth Cole
Lane Bryant
Liz Claiborne
Lodis Accessories
Long Rap Inc
Lovely Bag, Inc (supplier to Jest Jewels)
Mango NY/Distex Inc
Marc Ecko Enterprises Accessories
Marc Jacobs Intl
Maxx Accessories
Melie Bianco Accessories
Metropark USA
Mias Fashion
Michael Kors
Mode Plus
Mondani Handbags and Accessories
Nakajima USA/Sanrio (Hello Kitty brand)
Nine West
Pacific Sunware (PacSun)
Payless Shoes
Perlina Handbags
Phat Fashions
Phillips-Van Heusen
Quicksilver/QS Wholesale
Robert Talbott Inc
Roc Apparel Group
Rosetti (supplier to JC Penney)
Ross Stores
Rue 21
Run Athletics
The Sac
Saks & Company
San Diego Hat Company
Sharif Designs
Signature Styles
South Cone
Spiegel Catalogue
Steve Madden
Straw Studios
Super Trader Inc
Tandy Brands
Ted Baker Ltd
TJ Maxx
Tokyo Bay
Tory Burch
VF Outdoor
Victoria's Secret
Viewmark USA (supplier to Macy's)
Wet Seal
Wilson's Leather Direct
With You, Inc
Worldwide Dynasty
Y&S Handbags
Zumiez, Inc


  1. What else is left? Chanel? LV?

  2. Valid question, but remember that the only vinyl (fake leather) bags are likely to contain lead. If you are carrying a genuine leather bag, or a cloth bag, you are probably safe. Beware of brightly colored vinyl and plastic coating.

  3. Exactly. You may notice that brands like Fendi, Prada, D&B, and Gucci are conspicuous by their absence on the CEH watchdog list. It's the less expensive knockoff bags (almost exclusively made in China by underpaid and abused workers, btw) that women have to look out for. Let the companies know that you don't want that stuff by not buying it.

    1. But most people can't afford to by brands like Fendi, Prada, Gucci etc. There were brands on the list that are not inexpensive and supposedly reputable like Cole Haan and Tory Burch. How do we know for sure? and as to the comment on abused workers, I know that this is not true of all companies who have their manufacturing overseas, in fact, they provide work to otherwise starving people.

    2. How do we know for sure? You can know for sure by checking the FDA website for the list of imitation leather bags known to contain lead in the coloring or by buying an inexpensive lead test kit at your local hardware store (I've started using one to test my kids' toys). You can also simply buy yourself a CLOTH bag instead of a vinyl one. The key to really high-end bags like those mentioned by JANME is that they are made of leather, not fake leather. Of course, "expensive" is a relative term, so I think it's important to restate that the material the bag is made of will give you a BIG clue if it contains lead or not. Of course, if someone is willing to expose her/himself to long-term lead poisoning, that's her/his choice, I guess. Also, labor conditions in some factories in China are so bad that workers have started committing suicide in protest.


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