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Tests show most reusable shopping bags safe


State teamed with Iowa to check for heavy metals

Tests done on reusable shopping bags in Washington showed that most are within state limits for heavy metals.

Thirty-one reusable bags from name brand retailers were tested in the state and in Iowa. In Washington, the liner in a Sears bag and a wine carrier for Western Washington grocer Top Foods exceeded lead limits of 100 parts per million. In Iowa, the insert in one reusable bag also failed to meet the threshold for heavy metals.

Reusable bags from Walgreens, Kmart and QFC tested within the limits.

Top Foods immediately pulled the wine carriers, said Kathy Davis, a spokeswoman for the Washington Department of Ecology’s hazardous and toxic waste reduction program. Sears also committed to pulling its bags, only 3,000 of which were in circulation, Davis said.

The testing was done to allay consumer concerns about reusable bags. Pigments for red, orange and yellow paints can contain heavy metals.

Washington teamed up with Iowa to do the testing, because Iowa has an X-ray fluorescence instrument that screened the bags for cadmium, lead, mercury and hexavalent chromium. After the initial tests, the bags that failed to meet the limits were sent to the Ecology Department’s Manchester Environmental Laboratory for additional screening.

Washington is one of 19 states with a model toxics packaging law.

“Enforcement of the packaging law is part of Ecology’s broader effort to address toxics in consumer products,” Ted Sturdevant, the Ecology Department’s director, said in a prepared statement.

The department is working to reduce the amount of toxic chemicals used in consumer products and make people aware of safer alternatives, Sturdevant said.

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