Some Grocery Totes Contain Lead

Categories: Buyer Beware
TOTE ED RZ.jpg
Photo by Ily Goyanes
Sick of lax government regulations.
They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. That may be, but what about the road to learning disabilities in children and fertility problems in adults? Who knew that being environmentally conscious could make you sick?

If you are one of the millions of people that has bought one of those cute, reusable grocery bags at Publix or Winn-Dixie, you may have brought lead into your home.

The Tampa Tribune just released the results of an investigation revealing that those kitschy, reusable totes, usually sold for a dollar at a dozen or so stores, contain unsafe amounts of lead. Lead is toxic and can lead to infertility and learning disabilities, among other health issues. Remember when a friend would act stupid and you'd ask if they ate paint chips as a child? Lead was the reason for that. Paint used to contain such high levels of lead that it caused an entire generation to become learning disabled. You might remember them as the hippies.

First, shame on Publix and Winn-Dixie for cutting corners by purchasing these bags from suppliers in China. In case you don't remember, China was involved in a scandal a few years back when it was discovered that products it was sending over here, such as teddy bears and toothpaste, contained toxic waste.

Vimary Valdes, a Publix customer, says, "This is why the economy is the way it is. Companies try to save money by outsourcing and this is the result. We lose jobs and we get sick."

The truth is however, that just like our failed public education system and the housing bubble, this is mostly the government's fault.

Although the government regulates lead content in paint and children's toys, Florida doesn't have any regulations specifically governing these adorably deadly bags. Even though some of these bags contain lead levels that exceed what the federal government allows for paint, they aren't technically "illegal," but since Publix and Winn-Dixie want us around so we can continue to buy groceries, they are seeking to improve the situation.

The stores are offering a refund to anyone who wants to return their recyclable bags and Publix has asked its suppliers to try and reduce the lead content in the bags. Of course, this PR-friendly statement was released after Publix originally declared that the bags complied with federal rules. Fine--when it comes to doing the right thing, better late than never. Winn-Dixie, further proving its marketing department's inferiority to Publix's, issued a statement that its bags are "safe to use and reuse as intended," but that "there is an opportunity to improve this solution as it pertains to disposal of these bags." This basically means that that the lead content won't be changed, but Winn-Dixie will help with the disposal of the bags. While there are clear rules for disposing of other lead-containing products such as paint, again, there is no rule about the disposal of the bags. We'll give Winn-Dixie a week or two to change its tune.

While it is true that using these bags a few times won't seriously affect your health, with extended usage, the bags wear down and paint flakes off, releasing the toxic lead. And since the purpose of these bags is to reuse them for a long time, the lead content is obviously a problem. Trying to do the right thing by the environment could actually lead you to do the wrong thing for yourself. Let that be a lesson to you.

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