Press Releases

This Back to School Season, Lead is Still on the Lunch Menu for Some Children

lead-tainted lunchboxes found in recent lab

California watchdog group takes
legal action against six more producers and retailers of lead-tainted

Oakland, CA — Recent independent
laboratory testing commissioned by the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) has
shown that some lead-tainted lunchboxes are still being sold in national chain
stores. In testing this summer,
the Center found several vinyl lunchboxes purchased at major retailers including
Rite Aid, Staples, and Big Lots with elevated levels of lead. One lunchbox
tested contained lead levels 24 times the legal limit for lead in paint. The
testing found lead in the lining of lunch boxes, where it comes into direct
contact with food.

A year ago, CEH brought national attention to the
potential lead-poisoning hazard from vinyl children’s lunchboxes and took legal
action to stop the sale of the lead-tainted children’s product. CEH has settled
lawsuits against a number of companies, two of which – InGear and Fashion Accessory Bazaar – are already offering
reformulated products for this season. But over a dozen other companies have yet
to take action. Just last week, the non-profit watchdog group filed legal
notices against six more companies for producing or selling lead-tainted

“We are pleased that two leading lunchbox makers took this
issue seriously and are making safer products for children in time for this back
to school season,” said Michael
Green, Executive Director of CEH. “Their action shows that
children’s lunchboxes can be made without lead hazards. So it is hard to
understand why so many other producers and retailers are dragging their feet and
still selling our children this needlessly risky product.”

Earlier this
summer, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), spurred by the CEH action, sent
a notice to makers and suppliers of children’s lunchboxes, calling for an end to
marketing of such lead-tainted products. In their letter, FDA noted that “The
adverse health effects of elevated lead levels in children are well-documented
and may have long-lasting or permanent consequences. Because lead accumulates in
the body, these effects can occur even at low exposure levels, and may include
delayed mental and physical development, and learning deficiencies.” The agency
stated that since “migration of lead to food” kept in children’s vinyl
lunchboxes could “reasonably be expected,” FDA urged producers “to refrain from
marketing such lead-containing lunchboxes.”

While the recent testing
shows that many retailers are still selling lead-tainted vinyl lunchboxes, some
retailers have reportedly taken action. In early August, Wal-Mart announced it
would stop selling all vinyl-lined lunchboxes, according to news reports. “It’s
our hope that other retailers will follow suit, so parents can be sure that
their children are safe from lead poisoning this season,” said Green.

Last week, CEH sent legal notices of violation of California’s Proposition
65 (prop 65) law to lunchbox retailers Rite-Aid, Staples, and 99 Cents Only
Stores, and to lunchbox producers Cool Gear International, Haddad Accessories,
and Global Design Concepts. Prop 65 requires warning labels on products that
contain lead or other chemicals that can cause cancer or reproductive

Because some lunchboxes still contain lead, the Center for
Environmental Health recommends that parents should be cautious when purchasing
a child’s lunchbox. Because the lead is found in vinyl, parents can avoid lead
by buying vinyl-free lunchboxes. Parents can also use an inexpensive test kit to
check lunch boxes for lead.

For alternatives to vinyl lunchboxes and
other information, please click here.