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Warning for Parents: Your Children May Be Having Lead For Lunch!

The Center of Environmental Health California (CEHCA) recently released a report finding very high levels of lead in children's soft vinyl lunchboxes.

Lead is a toxic poison. Even the smallest amount can be harmful, especially in children. Children's bodies absorb more lead than adults and are therefore at a higher risk.

Initial independent laboratory testing commissioned by CEHCA found 17 lunchboxes with high lead levels -- anywhere from 2-90 times the legal limit! CEHCA is still testing and has not yet included testing hard plastic or metal lunchboxes.

The highest lead level found so far is the Anaconda lunchbox (by Targus International) which tested at 56,400 parts per million of lead. That's 90 times the 600 parts per million legal limit for lead in children's paint.

Most of the lead is found in the lining of the lunch boxes, where lead comes in direct contact with your child's food. Simply handling the lunchboxes just before eating can expose your kids.

Lead was also discovered on the surface of the lunchboxes. Lara Cushing, Research Director for CEHCA says "It's not bound up in the plastic. It's sloughing off. It can come off on your hands. It can rub off on your food."

CEHCA believes lead has been intentionally added to the vinyl (PVC) plastic as either a stabilizing agent or pigment.

The CEHCA has filed lawsuits against the makers /retailers of these soft vinyl lunchboxes. Here is a partial list of the manufacturers:

Toys R Us
Warner Brothers
DC Comics
Time Warner

These themed lunchboxes should be avoided:

  • Angela Anaconda
  • Superman
  • Tweety
  • Power Puff Girls
  • Hantaro

It is impossible to tell by appearance if a vinyl lunchbox contains these high levels of lead. CEHCA therefore advises parents to avoid lunchboxes altogether and use cloth or paper bags instead.

CEHCA Executive Director Michael Green wants manufacturers to recall their soft vinyl lunchboxes "to take action to eliminate lead from their products in the future."

CEHCA advises purchasing a lead-test kit. Sixwise recommends either PACE's Lead Alert or Leadcheck (which can be bought online at Both are around $15, come with instructions and will give you peace of mind.

If the lunchbox tests positive, discontinue use and send it to CEHCA. They'll add your contaminated lunchbox to their investigation.

Symptoms of Lead Poisoning

Lead has no known physiologic value to the human body. Exposure to lead comes primarily from breathing in or ingesting lead.

Lead can impair brain development and cause hearing problems, brain/nerve damage, stunted growth, digestive problems, and reproductive problems (including infertility and spontaneous abortion).

According to the Agency for Toxic Substance Disease reported 1 in 6 children in US has a high level of lead in their blood.

Nearly half a million children living in the United States have blood lead levels high enough to cause irreversible damage to their health. Here are some key symptoms of lead poisoning to watch for:

  • Stomachaches Depression
  • High blood pressure
  • Anemia
  • Fatigue
  • Liver/kidney damage
  • Osteoporosis
  • Paralysis
  • Blindness
  • Mental retardation
  • Constipation/Diarrhea
  • Aggressiveness
  • Muscle pain/weakness
  • Weight loss
  • Learning disabilities
  • Decreased metabolism
  • Anxiousness
  • Convulsions
  • Even death with chronic exposure
  • Poor appetite
  • Hyperactivity
  • Headaches
  • Coma
  • Death

If your child has any of these symptoms, check with your doctor about having their blood lead levels checked.

Lead In Our Homes, Offices, Parks and Playgrounds

Lead is a soft, heavy, blue-gray metal that occurs naturally in the earth's crust.
In most cases lead is released into our atmosphere through our burning of fossil fuels, mining, and factory manufacturing.

Although some lead compounds can be altered by sunlight, air and water, lead does NOT break down. Lead, once airborne, can also travel long distances before settling into the ground.

80% of homes built before 1978 used lead-based paints

Our children can easily be exposed to lead by ingesting lead-based paint chips or playing in contaminated soil. Lead has been found on at least 1,026 of the 1,467 National Priorities List sites identified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

According to the CDC 80% of US homes built before 1978 can contain lead based paint. Lead is still found in ammunition, some batteries, as well as medical and scientific equipment.

In the last 20 years, the US has removed lead from gasoline, paints, and many other products. Though these are critical changes, lead remains in the environment ... and even in seemingly innocent products like lunchboxes.

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