ThePoliticalCat

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Friday, September 21, 2007

Consumer Alert - Contamination in Schoolchildren's Lunch Boxes

Photo from treehugger.com

The Center for Environmental Health informs us that lunch boxes distributed by the State of California contained lead. AP had apparently stated in a February report that potentially dangerous levels of lead had been found in children's lunch boxes. However, I cannot find a working link to that story. The CEH link to a more recent AP report does not work. Use this link instead.

The California State Department of Health ordered the lunch boxes in July of 2006 as a promotional item. You'd think they'd have the wherewithal to test stuff before they pass it off on unsuspecting consumers, the blithering idiots.
An Associated Press investigation published in February revealed that government testing has shown high levels of lead in the vinyl lining of many children's lunch boxes. Almost every lunch box found to contain lead was made in China, which has been under increasing international pressure to improve the quality of its exports after dangerous toxins were found in goods ranging from toys to toothpaste.
To make matters worse, CEHCA had conducted an independent investigation a year previously that revealed lead contamination in children's lunch boxes:
Oakland, CA- Government documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) were released today, revealing that the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) withheld information about high levels of lead found in its testing of children’s vinyl lunchboxes, and falsely claimed that agency tests showed no need for concern.

In the summer of 2005, a CEH investigation made national news by exposing the widespread lead contamination found in children’s vinyl lunchboxes. Just weeks after the CEH test results were released, the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission announced that its testing showed no lead problems from lunchboxes. Now, CEH has received government documents showing that at the time CPSC made its announcement, its own laboratory testing showed that vinyl lunchboxes had levels of lead as much as 16 times higher than levels allowed for lead in paint. Even worse, the documents reveal that at the time the agency was about to announce that lead lunchboxes are safe, CPSC had just changed its testing procedure in an apparent effort to minimize findings of lead in lunchboxes.

“CPSC told parents that these lunchboxes were safe, but their own tests showed that lead in these lunchboxes could pose a threat to children,” said Michael Green, Executive Director of CEH. “It is shocking to see an agency entrusted with our safety playing Russian roulette with our children’s health.”

CEH announced its findings of lead in children’s lunchboxes on August 31, 2005. In its September 27, 2005 announcement of “Preliminary Lead Test Results for Vinyl Lunchboxes,” CPSC claimed that its “staff tested the inside and outside of each lunch box and the preliminary results were consistently below one microgram (μg)." The agency stated that this level posed no health threat to children.

But the documents CEH just received in response to a FOIA request from over a year ago show that at the time of the CPSC statement, the agency had tested fewer than ten vinyl lunchboxes, and already had some tests showing high lead levels. Three of these early CPSC tests showed lunchboxes with lead levels that were 2-16 times higher than the limit for lead in paint, and in at least three other tests, lunchboxes were found with levels higher than 1.0 μg of lead released from the surface of the lunchbox ( the maximum allowable level of lead ingestion under CA law is 0.5 μg from consumer products). The documents also show that the agency’s testing methods were haphazard, with some tests conducted on both interior and exterior surfaces and some only on the outside, and had inconsistent findings.
More infuriating details available here, including lead levels, FOIA documents from the Consumer Product Safety Omission, et cetera. The FDA and CPSC needs to fire every single person on their staff, beginning with their political appointees. They should be restaffed only with the most qualified apolitical candidates. The State should follow suit, with an indecent measure of haste.

Parents have, rather belatedly, been warned not to use any of the promotional lunch boxes they might have received from the State, including the 300,000 lunch boxes passed off on the unsuspecting public over previous years. Basically, if you got it as a freebie from the school or a fair, don't use it.
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