An Associated Press wire story about vinyl lunch boxes with unsafe levels of lead was picked up this weekend by a lot of news Web sites. The story is critical of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which tested 60 soft vinyl lunch boxes and found that one in five had levels of lead that experts considered unsafe. But instead of warning consumers, CPSC said it had found "no instances of hazardous levels." CPSC's position is that the lunch boxes are safe because kids don't get much "direct exposure" to lead from the lunch boxes.
Based on the extremely low levels of lead found in our tests, in most cases, children would have to rub their lunch box and then lick their hands more than 600 times every day, for about 15-30 days, in order for the lunch box to present a health hazard.But the Food and Drug Administration, after reviewing CPSC's data, sent a letter to lunch box manufacturers warning them that their lead levels might be dangerously high. AP's story quotes Vinyl Institute spokesman Allen Blakey saying the trade group defers to the government agencies on this issue.
The CPSC was pretty clear that they did not see a danger in these lunch boxes. The FDA had a slightly different take on it. But basically, we have not seen any indication of actual harm from the lunch boxes.It seems like common sense that a product like a child's lunch box shouldn't contain anything close to a hazardous level of lead. But apparently some manufacturers -- and CPSC -- needed a reminder.