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Beware of Lead in Children's Lunch Boxes

The Center for Environmental Health (CEH) in Oakland, California filed a lawsuit on August 31, 2005 against manufacturers and retailers of soft vinyl lunch boxes that can potentially expose children to dangerous levels of lead.

The amount of lead found in soft vinyl lunch boxes is not enough to cause acute lead poisoning, but is enough to contribute to health problems now and in the future, the most common of which are:

Poor appetite
Hearing problems
Stunted growth
Brain and nerve damage
Digestive disorders
Reproductive problems
According to the CEH's report, the majority of lunch boxes tested did not contain lead. Of the 17 boxes that tested positive for lead, the one that contained the most lead was an Angela Anaconda box made by Targus International, which tested at 56,400 parts per million (ppm) of lead, more than 90 times the 600 ppm legal limit for lead in paint in children’s products. The rest of the boxes that tested positive had between two and twenty-five times the legal limit for lead in paint in children's products.

One of the reasons why the CEH's investigation is of significant concern is that the highest lead levels were found in the lining of lunch boxes, where it can easily come into contact with food, and where kids are likely to touch before handling their food.

It's important to note that only soft plastic lunch boxes were tested for this report. The CEH did not test any hard plastic or metal lunch boxes.

If your child uses a soft plastic lunch box and you want to be sure that it doesn't contain harmful levels of lead, the only way of knowing for sure is by testing it with a simple lead testing kit. In the U.S., you can find inexpensive kits at or by calling 1-800-884-6073 for PACE's Lead Alert kit. In Canada and other countries, your best bet is to call a local hardware store and ask if they have a simple lead testing kit, one that can be used to check for contamination on walls and other everyday materials that children can come into contact with.

Of course, the safest approach would be to do away with soft plastic lunch boxes and stick with reuseable cloth bags or brown paper bags.

And please forward this information on to anyone you know whose children may be using soft plastic lunch boxes.


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