Lead in Children’s Lunch Boxes

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Test Your Child’s Lunch Box
Because it is not possible to tell by appearance whether a vinyl lunch box may contain lead, CEH is advising parents to avoid buying vinyl lunch boxes altogether as we cannot guarantee they are lead free. You can test vinyl lunch boxes you already own using a hand-held lead testing kit, often available at hardware stores. Two reliable and easy-to-use brands are PACE’s Lead Alert (also available by calling 1-800-884-6073) and LeadCheck (also available online at www.leadcheck.com). For a visual demonstration of how to use LeadCheck, please visit www.testyourlunchbox.com.

If your child’s lunch box tests positive please call CEH at 800-652-0827. We can help you interpret the results and can use your product as evidence in our ongoing work get the lead out of our children’s lunch boxes.

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Commonly Asked Questions

What products did CEH test?
CEH has only tested soft plastic lunchboxes. We don’t know whether lead may be present in hard plastic or metal boxes at this time.

How dangerous are lunchboxes with lead?
The levels CEH found in the lunchboxes are not high enough by themselves to cause acute lead poisoning during normal use. However, with prolonged use or if your child is exposed to lead from other sources, a leaded lunchbox would add to their health risk. Because lead has been shown to cause developmental problem in young children at very low levels, CEH believes it is important to eliminate all controllable sources of lead exposure, including lunchboxes.

Does my lunchbox have lead?
Not all of the lunchboxes CEH tested contain lead. However, at this time the only way to know for sure is to test the lunchbox yourself, avoid vinyl (PVC) lunchboxes altogether, or buy brands that have reformulated.

How do I test my lunchbox?
You can test vinyl lunchboxes using a hand-held lead testing kit available at most hardware stores. Most brands turn a bright pink color when they are rubbed on a surface containing lead. A clear or orange swab means there is not lead. Parents should rinse the test solution off of a negative box before re-using it.

What do I do if my lunchbox has lead?
If your child’s lunchbox tests positive, we recommend that you do not use it any longer. Please send CEH your positive lunchbox so that we can add it to our investigation and notify other parents. Please include your contact information (including email and mailing address), when and where you purchased the box. Boxes can be mailed to:
Center for Environmental Health, 528 61st Street Suite A, Oakland, CA 94609

What alternatives are there to vinyl lunchboxes?
As a result of CEH’s legal work, several companies have agreed to reformulate their lunchboxes. For the fall season 2006, both Ingear and Fashion Accessory Baazar (FAB) have been reformulated. Other companies are in the process of reformulating (see reverse). A reusable cloth bag is also good alternative, and several manufacturers also make insulated cloth lunchboxes.

Where is the lead from?
CEH believes that the lead is intentionally added to the vinyl (PVC) plastic as either a stabilizing agent or pigment.

Should my child be tested?
The levels in the lunchboxes CEH has tested are not high enough by themselves to cause acute lead poisoning with normal use. However, if your child is also exposed to other sources such as lead paint, they may be at risk for certain health effects. A blood test is the only definitive way to test for lead poisoning. Children six and under are particularly sensitive to lead’s effects.

Where can I find more information?
Please visit our website www.cehca.org/lunchboxes.htm. You can also contact CEH by calling 1(800) 652-0827