Major Retailers Will Limit Lead in Handbags and Accessories


According to an environmental group on Wednesday, at least 40 major retailers and apparel makers will limit the use of lead in handbags and other fashion accessories, reported the Associated Press (AP).

Lead exposure is associated with a variety of health problems including  increased risk for stroke, high blood pressure, heart attacks and greater infertility rates for women. Young children and pregnant women are especially vulnerable.

The companies will implement new product lead use industry standards as part of a $1.7 million legal settlement filed Tuesday in California Alameda County Superior Court, said the AP.

The agreement, signed by JC Penny, Guess, Sears, Kmart, Macy’s, Target, Kohl’s, Saks and Victoria’s Secret, settles a lawsuit filed against the companies last year by the Center for Environmental Health in Oakland, California.

When the environmental advocacy group tested dozens of vinyl and faux leather women’s wallets, purses, and handbags from San Francisco Bay area retail outlets, they discovered high levels of lead.

The group’s executive director, Michael Green, said he hopes other companies will follow the health standards indicated in the legal agreement. The settlement means “millions of women no longer need to fear that their purse may pose a threat to their health or the health of their children,” Green said, quoted the AP.

Jeffrey Margulies, who represents seven of the retailers, said his clients settled to avoid costly, time-consuming litigation, although they deny lead levels were dangerous to consumers, but “if customers are concerned about lead in products, this settlement should remove any concern about that,” Margulies said, quoted the AP.

If other companies join the settlement and agree to comply with its content standards, they would be protected from future litigation involving their products’ lead levels.

The $1.7 million settlement will include payments to the Center for Environmental Health and California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment. The center said it will use the money to pay legal expenses, monitor compliance with the agreement and fund its environmental protection work, said the AP.