ROCHESTER, N. Y.
-So you care about the environment and you go to the grocery store with a reusable shopping bag to avoid polluting the earth with countless plastic bags.
Now you find that your bag is made of potentially harmful lead.
What should environmental activists do?
If you\'re like Enola Cooper, there\'s nothing.
\"I don\'t eat this bag. . .
I\'m not going to throw it away either, \"said 68-year-old Cooper, who came out of a Wegmans Food Market store in Rochester this week with a reusable bag under her arm, laughing.
The latest in a series of ominous warnings about potentially dangerous products deals with synthetic but reusable bags that may contain lead.
The turmoil in supermarkets and Congress is not so much about whether toxins will spread on food as about whether toxins will accumulate in landfill sites and cause environmental harm.
But since the full meaning of the bags is that they are to be preserved, not thrown away, and because the lead concentration in them is low, some shoppers believe that the imminent risk of a toxic disaster is small.
\"Six or seven years ago, I changed reusable bags to prevent plastic from entering the landfill,\" said retired nurse Cooper . \".
\"Before I start using plastic again, I will continue to use the kind of lead. \"The Rochester-
The Wegmans chain, headquartered in 77 stores in several states in the eastern United States, stopped selling two reusable bags in September after local environmental organizations tested that they contained potential
Wegmans says there is no evidence that the 750,000 bags it sells pose a health threat.
\"From an environmental point of view, the final disposal of bags is the only problem,\" said spokeswoman Jo Natale . \" She urged the customer to return the bag for replacement when it was no longer available.
The company has sold an estimated 4.
It has 5 million reusable bags in stores in five states and has not yet decided how to handle the returned bags.
Lead intake can lead to learning disabilities and adult fertility problems in children.
A recent survey by the Tampa Tribune found excess lead in reusable bags purchased by Winn
Dick and other major retailers.
Lead appears to exist in a form that is not easily extracted or \"filtered\" out.
But lab experts told the paper that, over time, at the landfill, the bags would break down and the paint would fall off.
Lead is used in paint to increase color, transparency and durability;
Wall paint has been banned in the United States. S.
Since the end of 1970. Sen.
On Sunday, New York Democrat Charles Schumer called on the Food and Drug Administration to investigate the bags.
\"When our family goes to the grocery store to find safe and healthy food to feed their children, the last thing they should worry about is toxic bags,\" he said . \".
The next day, King Kullen, a Long Island chain, and Fla, Fla. -based Winn-
Dixie said they are pulling some reusable bags from the brand. Winn-Dick and Tampa
Publix-based suppliers are looking for ways to make reusable shopping bags
with less lead.
Mainly made in China, reusable bags account for 10% to 15% of the United States. S.
Grocery bag market.
Chinese for Wegmans
The lead content in \"green peas\" and \"Holiday 2009\" bags is seven to eight times higher than what the New York State packaging regulations allow.
However, after they have been removed, the test for the \"lead-soluble level\" returns at a rate below 0.
Kathleen O\'Donnell, chief food scientist at Wegmans, said one out of a million.
\"This level is classified as non-
\"Hazardous waste is likely to enter any landfill site,\" she said . \". Dr.
Lead poisoning specialist John Rosen at Montefiore Children\'s Hospital in New York City says any lead exposure source, no matter how small, should be eliminated if possible.
Rosen said: \"I haven\'t seen any number of lead concentrations in shopping bags yet, but for the safety of my own grandchildren, I will say to my daughters, \'don\'t use them.
Together with other consumer products that have recently attracted attention, such as children\'s jewelry and Shrek-
Novel glasses with CD theme.
For Beth Lavini, the little girl in the bag sounds more like a \"temporary phenomenon.
\"If there is a problem, they will solve it. . . .
Lavigne, 61, said: \"This is no longer a problem . \" He is a university administrator with a dozen reusable bags.
\"It\'s a good idea to reuse.
But who knows what\'s in the plastic bag?
Mary Sigrist, 81year-
When she lined up at the Wegmans deli, the former old teacher said she was completely looking at the problem.
\"In other countries, it is important to prove that things are safe before they are put into circulation,\" she said . \".
\"Here we put it in the loop and then find it unsafe.
\"Anyone who cares about the possibility of lead in shopping bags can rest easily if they use cotton canvas bags instead of more colorful synthetic materials, lars havin of The New York Public Interest Research Group in Albany said.
\"At this point,\" he said, \"there is a clean list of health in the canvas bag.