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Lead in Children's Lunch Boxes?

A Tip from Susan: The Center for Environmental Health (CEH) recently filed lawsuits against makers and retailers of soft vinyl lunch boxes that can expose children to harmful levels of lead. The lawsuits and violation notices against companies included Toys “R” Us, Warner Brothers, DC Comics, Time Warner, Walgreens, and others, involve many lunch boxes featuring beloved children’s characters including Superman, Tweety Bird, and Powerpuff Girls.

Initial independent laboratory testing commissioned by CEH has already found seventeen lunch boxes with high lead levels - between two and twenty-five times the legal limit for lead paint in children’s products. In most cases, the highest lead levels were found in the lining of lunch boxes, where lead could come into direct contact with food. Lead is known to be harmful to children even in minute amounts, as it can impair brain development and cause other behavioral and developmental problems.

If it is not possible to tell by appearance whether a vinyl lunch box may contain lead, CEH is advising parents to avoid vinyl lunch boxes altogether. Parents may need to seek out alternatives, since many mass produced lunch boxes are vinyl or vinyl-lined. Parents can find information on how to test for lead in their children’s lunch boxes at home, and find photos of lead heavy lunch boxes at the Center for Environmental Health's page "Lead in Children's Lunchboxes": To confirm this, my daughter and I went to a local Target store and tested about 20 lunch boxes. We found that all Artic Zone boxes (even the kid’s ones) were fine. All lunch boxes with the Thermos, Igloo and Eddie Bauer brands tested positive for lead. As a rule of thumb, I found that if the box has a grey or silver lining it tested positive. Hopefully this will help you find a workable solution, and my patients can also call my office for a short appointment at no charge to get their lunch boxes tested for lead.