Eco-Friendly Grocery Bags Are 'Potentially Unsafe'

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"There's always something wrong with everything," sighed one Trader Joe's shopper when informed that the environmentally-friendly bags he was carrying may contain a harmful amount of lead. Those eco-conscious totes, which are beginning to supplant plastic bags among grocery shoppers, were supposed to be one of the "small steps" that concerned citizens could take to be proactively green. Unfortunately, many of these plastic bag varieties are made in China. And they contain "potentially unsafe" levels of lead. The New York Times Michael M. Grynbaum details the possible risk:

Reusable bags have maintained their popularity even amid charges that they become hothouses for bacteria. The recent studies, none of which were conducted by the government, found that the lead in some bags would pose a long-term risk of seeping into groundwater after disposal; over time, however, paint from the bag could flake off and come into contact with food.

Ironically, the timing of these revelations appears to be coming right as shoppers just started getting used to hauling out their branded totes to grocery stores.

But many shoppers said they would continue relying on the bags until more information came out. The bags are usable for years, they said, and any long-term effects of lead may be offset by the environmental benefits gained by not using regular plastic bags.

Next up: a potential federal investigation into the issue. Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer is leading the charge into the danger of recyclable bags after learning that numerous stores reportedly sold tainted items to consumers.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.