Purses, Belts, Backpacks, and Shoes

Why it Matters

High levels of lead in purses, handbags, shoes, and other accessories pose a health threat to women, especially women of childbearing age. Many of these and other accessories made with faux-leather plastics used to contain dyes made with lead pigments. Lead exposure has been linked to increased rates of infertility in women, hypertension, coronary heart disease, and cognitive decline. So purses with high levels of lead pose a serious threat to young women and mothers.

Lead exposure to children is an even greater threat and can lead to impaired mental development, hyperactivity, attention deficits, lower IQ test scores, and reductions in academic achievement. Magnifying the problem is lead exposure in pregnant women causes an increase in allergy and asthma in their children, and even prenatal exposure to lead results in IQ test score declines similar to those caused by early childhood exposure.

What We Did

In 2009, CEH initiated legal action against major retailers for selling purses and other accessories with high levels of lead. Over the following months, we tested hundreds of purses and accessories and took action against more than one hundred retailers and producers of lead-tainted products.

In June 2010, CEH announced that more than forty major retailers had agreed to eliminate lead risks to women from purses and other accessories. By 2019, over 200 retailers, producers, and suppliers the initial group in agreeing to strict limits on lead in their products. The agreements established a fund for monitoring the companies’ compliance.

Our compliance testing project has demonstrated a noticeable decrease in the prevalence of lead in handbags. New research published by CEH found faux leather purses sold at major retailers and made with lead pigments declined from 34% to 8% over a seven-year period. The decline occurred in purses sold online as well as purses sold online suggesting the impact of the law was national in scope.

Nonetheless, there are still a few companies that can’t or won’t put in place strong quality control that protects consumers. We believe those companies should be held accountable for using toxic chemicals. In 2019, the companies that we are still finding lead-containing products are Ross, Forever Link, DND Fashion, and Shoe Republic.

What You Can Do

Join our mailing list to get ongoing tips for how to keep your family safe from toxic chemicals, updates on our work, and actions you can take.

Buy faux leather fashion accessories at stores other than Ross, and avoid Forever Link, DND Fashion, and Shoe Republic brands.

Potential Boxes
Pending work: CC paper on purses/candy, PR CC Paper, Press Coverage of paper? Or op-ed about paper?

Existing work:
ABC story
Kids Deserve Toxic-Free Shoes!
Toxic Fashion Infographic
CEH Blog (safer handbags)
ABC blog: Purses With Lead Sold at Popular Retailers, Consumer Group Finds
CEH Report:Pretty but Poisonous: Lead in Handbags and Wallets