Toxic lead levels in fashion accessories at two retailers

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Toxic levels of lead found in accessories at 2 retail chains A new report from…

People usually don’t think of shopping as a health hazard, but a report called “Toxic Fashion” released this week by CEH, the Center for Environmental Health, said their investigators found high levels of lead in fashion accessories sold by two retail chains, Ross and Burlington.

“What we found is handbags, belts, wallets, shoes, whether they’re leather or faux leather disproportionally have high levels of lead,” said Kizzy Charles-Guzman, CEO of the Center for Environmental Health.

The CEH report says the non-profit’s investigators went to 63 Ross stores and 15 Burlington stores across California, including more than one dozen stores in the Bay Area.

The report says lab tests showed hundreds of items, under a wide range of brand names, had lead levels above 300 parts per million, compared to the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s safety limit of 100 parts per million for children’s items.

“We absolutely need safer standards. We absolutely need better regulations at the federal level,” Charles-Guzman said, “Lead is a toxicant that has a tremendous impact on our body. It is especially harmful to children.”

“You assume that they’re safe, like their products are safe to buy,” said Yoyo Chan of Alameda, who was shopping with her husband and baby.

By law, California employers also have an obligation to protect workers, according to Robert Moutrie, an attorney and policy advisor with the California Chamber of Commerce.

“Under Cal/OSHA’s regulations specifically, they have an obligation to be aware of when lead exposures are happening and then to conduct testing of their employees and their environments,” Moutrie said.

Moutrie says Cal-OSHA just passed new, stricter lead regulations last month.

“Under the prior regulation you had workers with exposure up to 50 micrograms of lead, and then you’re dropping that down to 10 micrograms of lead over an 8-hour shift, so it’s drastically lower. “

Burlington did not respond to our request for comment.

Ross did send a statement:

“At Ross, the health and safety of our customers and associates is of the utmost importance.  We do not manufacture fashion accessories, but we maintain strict product safety requirements. We have policies in place that require our suppliers to meet applicable product safety and labeling standards that are established by government regulators. Those include standards related to lead content.  If we learn of allegations that our products are not in compliance, we investigate and take prompt action.”

For the full CEH report, click here. 

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