October 31, 2014

Project finds shopping bags containing lead

A recent screening of 125 various shopping bags in a dozen states, including Iowa, found three bags contained high concentrations of lead. Iowa D.N.R. Environmental Specialist Kathleen Hennings says — in past years — plastic bags found to be in noncompliance with laws associated with toxic metals in packaging were manufactured overseas.

“This time, we got one from here in Iowa,” Hennings said. “That was a really big surprise to us, as it was to the manufacturer here in Iowa.” The shopping bag was manufactured in Des Moines, but it was the film supplier that was at fault for the lead.

Hennings said the bags were immediately removed from stores. “They’ve been gone, off the shelves, for a good year,” Hennings said. Toxic metals are regulated in packaging by 19 U.S. states, including Iowa.

The metals are found in the inks used to print or color the bags and become a problem when the ultimately end up in the landfill. “Over time, that bag is going to break down, but heavy metals won’t. Those heavy metals are still going to be in the landfill for years and years, decades and decades,” Hennings said.

Overall, compliance has improved with state toxics in packaging laws. A screening project released in 2007 showed almost 17-percent noncompliance for plastic shopping bags.