A May 2 decision to recall some vinyl baby bibs because they contain lead is generating a lot of headlines. What's interesting to me is how the issue got attention in the first place: a woman in suburban Chicago decide to test her grandson's vinyl-backed bib. The Arlington Heights, Ill., Daily Herald has a follow-up story today on Marilyn Furer, the grandmother-activist, whose grandson Jensen started the ball rolling:
Jensen would also put the bib in his mouth when he was hungry, something that came to Marilyn Furer's attention when he started using the vinyl-backed bibs. It caused Marilyn to think back to reports she had heard of lead being found in plastic school lunch boxes. “So there I think, hmmm, plastic in the mouth, plastic in school lunch boxes. What the heck, I'll just go get a (lead testing) kit just to play it safe. I never thought it would come out like that.” Using a household lead test kit produced by Homax Products Inc., she crushed the two points on the barrel of the testing swab, shook the swab and squeezed it until a yellow liquid appeared on the tip. Then she rubbed the swab tip on the test area. To her surprise, the swab tip turned pink, indicating the presence of lead. She wound up testing 20 bibs, with eight of them yielding a positive result. She sent the bibs, which were made in China and sold at Wal-Mart, to the Center for Environmental Health in Oakland, Calif., which had done the research on the lunch boxes. Testing commissioned by the center revealed that one of the Baby Connection brand vinyl bibs, which were sold exclusively at Wal-Mart stores, had a lead level of 9,700 parts per million, more than 16 times greater than the legal limit for lead in paint.Now Marilyn Furer wants a ban on lead-based products used by infants and children. The Vinyl Insitute reacted well to this story, putting out a news release yesterday explaining its position.
“Lead does not need to be used in babies' bibs,” said Tim Burns, president of the Vinyl Institute. “You don't need lead to make vinyl, and most vinyl products don't contain lead.”He added: “This is a lead issue, not a vinyl issue. It appears that although lead may not have been added deliberately, it made its way into products from some environmental or workplace source. It is critical for manufacturers, importers and retailers globally to work together to set and enforce policies to address these concerns.” As the Daily Herald story notes, the bibs were imported from China. As we've also seen from the melamine/pet food story, new measures are desperately needed to ensure the safety of products being imported into North America.