Retailers agree to limit lead in purses, accessories



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Posted on June 3, 2010 at 7:49 PM

Updated Thursday, Jun 3 at 7:51 PM

DALLAS — It's estimated that 95 percent of women carry a purse every day. Many rotate between two or three handbags on a regular basis.

But some purses are dangerous — especially for young children — because they contain lead.

The Center for Environmental Health recently tested dozens of purses; the majority of them contained up to 90 times more lead than federal standards permit.

Because of that, what you see in stores will soon change.

More than 40 companies —  including DSW, Sears,  Kohl's, Target, Walmart, Macy's and Plano-based JCPenney — pledge they will no longer sell accessories containing high levels of lead.

The Center for Environmental Health said the vinyl used to make many bags and wallets contains 90 times the federal standard of lead. They believe the problem is both in the material and the dye coloring the accessory.

Dr. Karen McClard, with Texas Health Dallas, warns that lead is toxic. "Lead is a nuerotoxin;  that means it can cause learning disabilities and loss of IQ points," she said.

Jenna Woodberry, who has four children, said the news about handbags concerns her.

"Usually have your purse over your shoulder and your baby over your shoulder, and they're right there next to each other," she said.

"I can totally see my nine-month-old chewing on this strap as I was talking to whomever in the grocery store," Dr. McClard said, holding a heavily-used purse which is starting to come apart. "A piece of this could come off, and your child could swallow that, and if this is 90 times higher than what it's supposed to be, exposed to our children on a daily basis, it could potentially be dangerous."

Woodberry realizes that everything from pacifiers to toys ends up in her handbag at some point,  and cross-contamination is a big concern.

The 40 retailers agreed this week that starting December 1, they will no longer sell handbags, belts and footwear containing 600 parts per million of lead in leather or 300 parts per million in vinyl.

Violations can lead to fines more than $12,000.

The Center for Environmental Health has tested multiple products over the past 10 years.. They've identified lead in baby bibs, lunch boxes, jewlery, and even candy.

You can test anything you have at home for lead contamination. We found a swab kit up at Lowes for $6.