Leading Manufacturer to Eliminate Lead Risks from Children’s Lunchboxes
Oakland, CA — Children's lunchbox manufacturer InGEAR, the country's third-leading producer of lunchboxes
and coolers, has reached an agreement with the Center for Environmental Health
to eliminate lead risks to children from their products in time for this
summer's back-to-school shopping season. The settlement with InGEAR was signed today in San Francisco Superior Court by
Judge Ronald Quidachay.
InGEAR, the first company to settle
the lawsuits CEH initiated last year against children's lunchbox makers and
retailers, has agreed to set a strict standard for reducing lead in all of its
vinyl lunchboxes and coolers. The company also agreed to eliminate its use of
polyvinyl chloride (PVC, or "vinyl") plastic in the interior of lunchboxes, as
PVC often contains high lead levels.
"We applaud InGEAR for taking
this swift action to protect children's health," said Michael Green, Executive Director of CEH. "Parents
shouldn't have to worry that lead might be lurking in their children's lunch. We
urge other manufacturers and retailers to meet the same safety standards
quickly, so all children's lunchboxes can be free of lead risks by this summer's
Buffalo Grove, Illinois-based InGEAR has agreed to reduce lead levels in its products to
below 200 parts per million (ppm) within 90 days of
the settlement. In lab testing, one InGEAR product
previously tested at over 5,700 ppm of lead. In its
ongoing investigation, lab tests commissioned by CEH have found thirty
lunchboxes and coolers made by other manufacturers that contain two to ninety
times the federal standard of 600 ppm for lead in
paint on toys. Lead is a potent neurotoxin that can cause reduced IQ and
behavioral problems in children even with low levels of exposure.
In addition to the 200 ppm
lead threshold, InGEAR has agreed to eliminate the use
of PVC entirely in the interior of its lunchboxes within nine months. PVC is
considered the dirtiest of all plastics because it is often made with lead and
other harmful additives and can release cancer-causing chemicals when it is
produced and incinerated. "One simple way that lunchbox manufacturers can
eliminate lead is to stop using vinyl and switch to safer materials that are
currently available," said Green. In addition to other lunchbox manufacturers
Igloo, Fast Forward LLC, and Accessory Network Group, CEH has sued retailers
including Toys R Us, Walgreens, Ross Stores and others for selling lead-tainted
Following the CEH lawsuits, the Attorney General of New
York last fall announced statewide recalls of lead-tainted lunchboxes made by
Fast Forward. The Washington State Department of Ecology and the Connecticut
Attorney General have also issued warnings that they will take action to pull
lead-lunchboxes from stores in their states.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is currently
negotiating with a number of lunchbox manufacturers after lead in excess of
limits set in Illinois' Environmental
Protection Act was identified in lunchboxes sold in Illinois; a number of Illinois retailers have pulled suspect
lunchboxes off store shelves at Madigan's request.
With their lunchbox action, InGEAR joins a growing list of businesses, including
Microsoft, Crabtree & Evelyn, and Johnson & Johnson that are reducing or
eliminating the use of PVC.
InGEAR, which sells more than a
quarter million lunchboxes and coolers annually, is the third largest
manufacturer in the industry and supplies major retailers including Kmart, WalMart, Sears and JC Penney. CEH first sued lunchbox makers
and retailers in August 2005 under California's Safe Drinking Water and Toxics
Enforcement Act, known as "Proposition 65".
More information about CEH's
investigation can be found here.