When it came to realization that the levels of lead being used in children’s toys was off the charts, everyone became very aware of the toys they were buying. High lead levels have been found in other household products including paint and blinds as well. ABC broke the story that researches found extremely alarming levels of lead in some handbags from top retailers. This means it is time to be conscious of the handbags we are buying for other reasons that just the price tag.

For the most part, genuine leather bags are not the problem. It is the bags made with PVC, polyvinyl chloride, which may contain lead. Manufacturers find PVC useful when making a synthetic handbag, as it gives the bag pliability and can help brighten colors as it is used in pigment.

The Center for Environmental Health went to 100 top retailers, including Target, Macy’s, and WalMart to buy purses and have the bags tested for lead at an independent lab. They used two tests, one was to wipe the bag to see if lead would simply rub off and the other was testing the bag for overall lead content.

What they found was truly frightening.

In some of the bags they tested, they found levels 30 to 100 times higher than the federal limit for lead in children’s items. The problem for women buying bags is there is no federal limit for lead content on handbags, only children’s products and paint. So how could anyone know that their bag could be hazardous to their life and the people around them?

One of the major concerns is women who are wanting to become pregnant, are pregnant, and their children. Children are known to touch everything and put their hands in their mouths. And mom’s handbag is no exception. The CEH found that by simply touching one of these bags, it gave a level of lead higher than the state of California allows, unless the item carries a warning label for cancer and birth defects.

As of right now H&M, New York & Company, and two suppliers agreed to pull bags from their shelves in the state of California, where a lawsuit was filed. They have also agreed to inspect bags and products used closer in the future and educate about toxic health hazards.

Today, the CEH is working closely with 60 additional retailers hoping for a similar outcome. Their hope is that bags being put on the shelves are safe to everyone buying it, using it, or near it and that standards change.

Only problem for us right now is that we do not know exactly which bags from which retailers have high lead content. The upside of this story and research is to make us aware. We need to all be aware of how the products we use on a daily basis could be affecting our health and the health of those around us.

How do you feel about these news breaking? How, if at all, will this affect your shopping?

[story via ABC WorldWide News]

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Share Your Thoughts With Us

  • Pippi

    This is truly frightening! It is good to know that leather bags are safer. Thank you for sharing this important information!

    • The article made no mention of genuine leather bags, but seeing as how the lead was coming from PVC I would assume leather bags are much safer (though I don’t want to speak as if I know the exact numbers).

      Honestly, this is just another case of us needing to be more aware of what we buy, where it comes from, what is used in it, and how we can educate ourselves on these issues.

      • Al

        Appalling, but then again I don’t trust any consumer product company to tell the whole truth, always trying to cut corners. I think the more important issue is why these bags would be allowed to be sold anywhere in the first place. I mean, I don’t think consumer’s should have to think about lethal chemicals when buying any product that comes in contact with their hands, body etc! And further why is Cali the only state pulling them off the market? I hope leather handbags are safer, because otherwise I’m going to have to learn basket weaving.

    • Lucy


      • jayne

        I have to wonder if it’s all really true. Now that non leather bags are selling like hotcakes, maybe the more expensive leather bags aren’t doing so well and that would give them a reason to put this info outh there. My grandmothers bags were never leather and I don’t recall any problems back then. I don’t know, you can’t trust anyone when you see handbags more expensive than my house and car put together.

  • Paulina

    I can understand why there’s no limit on lead content in handbags. Ingesting lead is the most effective way of getting lead poisoning. How often do grown adults put bags in their mouths? Regardless, lead toxicity affects developing children more than adults.

    • They also were referring to just touching the bag, then touching your fork, then touching your food, etc, etc – which many of us do. It is a chain of events that can lead to potential poisoning.

  • Terri

    I hope in the near future there is a clearinghouse link that consumers can go to and see the brands that are affected. We can’t live in protective bubbles but we can at least have the information to make smart choices in what we do buy.

  • Jane

    I don’t know about you, but I am tired of our ignorance when it comes to lead being used in the products that we buy. I have become more aware of the products I purchase and have wanted to stop buying handbags made in China. I stopped buying Coach because of this, and now I hear RM is making her bags in China as well. I absolutely love her bags and was truly saddened to found out that she is having her bags made in China. I just purchased her cosmetic bag and of course its all pvc, and it has a little tag saying made in China. I can only hope that this bag is free of lead I plan on emailing her as soon as possible. I know it is impossible to only buy American and I won’t stop purchasing RM handbags I am too addicted to her line, but I hope she will be able to say that her bags are free of lead. Thank you so much for this article, I know we are losing the battle when it comes to the lead being in our products. Now we know and we can write our Senators to pass laws banning the use of lead in all products sent to America, and we can also write our favorite brands to ask if they have any information as well. Thanks for knowledge, we all need to stay alert.

    • jayne

      Who’s RM?

      • JJ

        Rebecca Minkoff

    • mimi

      I felt the same way about REBECCA MINKOFFS outsourcing. I had just told my manager who went to check the new merchandise on the floor and told me it says made in China. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but I am a huge supporter for American made products…we need an economy boost. And this certainly explains RM’s minor price adjustment.

  • Shoppa Holique

    @Jane yeah good luck finding cheap bags that are TRULY made in countries other than china

    • Jane

      I know I won’t be able to find handbags that are not made in China most or even majority of the time, but that doesn’t mean I am not allowed to ask that they at least not be made of harmful chemicals. That is all I was truly trying to say.

  • BagBrag

    Having read this article, we are truly not safe and we are exposed to dangers lurking in every corner, even in our go to handbags which we love and sometimes curl up as a pillow with.

    So what now? Do we stop buying bags or we give our bags a total wipe down before using them?


  • Caroline

    OMG!!! Thanks so much for sharing this. I am going to really think about where I buy my bags from now on. Better to save up for a good one from a company I trust.

  • luralee

    Great information, but doesn’t really affect my purchasing since I am still unaware of what manufacturers I need to look out for. I think they should have held onto the story until they had solid facts and information. JMHO.

    • Alana

      It sounds like they have solid facts but
      are not sharing them yet

  • mochababe73

    Not changing my purchasing habits until such time that they actually list the bags, manufacturers, and the stores that carry them.
    Another issue where consumers are alarmed with only a little information. Did anyone ever find out which lip glosses and lipsticks actually had lead in them? If the US would just stop importing things from China and exporting jobs there, then we would have a better idea of what we actually have in stores.

  • Shannon

    My mom and I saw this the other night, we were shocked! I really hope that brands that use coated canvas bags aren’t falling into this spectrum, this is truly scary. Especially for those of us that carry our lunches/snacks in our bags, or even bottled water! That’s inside of the bag, and then you touch it/put it in your mouth!

  • S

    How about patent leather bags?

  • Mimi

    Thanks so much for the story! There’s nothing we can really do at this point but I will be looking for more information on this. I just can’t help but wonder, how can they let this happen? Is it really all about making money?

  • Rashmi Budhram-Momma Couture

    This is so disturbing and I’m glad it’s finally being brought to mainstream media. This is a serious threat to men and women and kids. I can’t understand why handbags are not being held to the CPSC’s lead and phthalates requirements. I design and manufacture a line of diaper bags-www.mommacouture.com-and am so glad I took a hard stance on being CPSIA compliant/making sure my bags are not being produced with high levels of phthalates and lead. I’m glad other bag manufacturers will, hopefully, now be made accountable. Thanks for sharing!

  • Hurley

    This is not a “Made in China” issue – this is about the nature of PVC and other synthetic materials. PVC is PVC, regardless of whether it’s made in China, USA, Italy or elsewhere.

    Regardless, I think this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of coming to a realization that there are countless hazards in the world around usl the food we eat, the clothes we wear, right up to the air that breathe!

    I think bringing to topic to everyone’s attention is important, but let’s try not to be biased towards certain countries. After all, having something “Made in USA” isn’t guaranteed to be any better.

    • Al

      Agreed (there tends to be a lot of anti-MIC bias on tPF), but perhaps Jane meant to say that some countries have looser restrictions when it comes to manufacturing? I.e. recalls on lead toys from China etc.

      Good point about the PVC, wherever it’s from. I guess, big corporations really don’t care about the common man. Everything seems to point to toxicity these days, yes, food too. I would also like to know if there was any word on patent leather… thank god I don’t like that shiny stuff :p

      • Jane

        Thank you Al that is all I was trying to say. I know America can be just as guilty at hurting its people. I just am scared and I hope for more information. I think I sounded a little harsh in my first comments.

      • Shoppa Holique

        I agree on that anti-MIC bias, not just on tpf. China’s been getting bad rap from allthe product recalls, but just cos most factories have looser restrictions doesn’t mean the ones the produce luxury items also do. I read (Deluxe by Dana Thomas) that these factories adhere to the brand’s strictest standards. it just doesn’t sound as romantic as Gepetto making your leather bag with his bare hands

  • Rebecca

    Found this link that gives more info on retailers affected: http://www.ceh.org/storage/cehca/documents/accessory_bag_report.pdf

    Even leather can have lead in it so I’ve just been emailing places where I’ve bought bags from to see if they do lead testing.

    • Let me see if I can reach out to some designers/companies and see if they have a stance on this when it comes to their brand and products. Thanks for the link!

      • Rashmi Budhram-Momma Couture

        Megs I’d be happy to share my opinion with you as a diaper bag designer.

    • Jane

      great find thanks for the link

    • Christine

      The article states that natural leather(probably vachetta too) will not be affected as the bags of color.
      So maybe Coach bags are safe(they’re not on the list)

      • LuLu

        I have an all leather bag that I bought at JC Penny, on the inside tag it says 100% cowhide leather with polyvinyl chloride trim, so that means it has lead in it, right ? Looking at the bag there in way to tell the difference between the leather and the trim. I’m thinking I will return it Penny’s but what is safe to buy now ?

  • Alarmed

    I am wondering the same thing as @Shannon — does anyone know if this applies to coated canvas as well? It would be a shame if we need to be careful of $800 LV, Prada, etc handbags…

  • ann onimous

    I suppose I’d be worried if I ever planned to chew on my bag like a piece of beef jerky.

    How silly to see this “news” hyped.

  • S

    Here is the detailed article:
    It also has the list of brands

    • Jane

      Wow. thank you

  • Bob

    Funny that only state of California wants to enforce it and no other states thinks it is any danger to consumer.
    Maybe lawyers in California are not as busy and they want to make more money or we have too many lawyers here so they have to get creative.
    PROP 65 (which talks about lead and other toxic substances) is for DRINKING WATER!!!! If you don’t eat your bag you’ll be safe. Moreover, they have that stupid warning everywhere in California (New cars, gas stations, even apartments with more than 10 units and…) nobody cares here anymore. Lawyers (AND CEH) suing an industry and makes some money in return that industry agrees to post warning on their product or something like that. As mentioned earlier ONLY IN CALIFORNIA.
    P.S. leather, PU, PVC Made in China or… makes no difference. It’s all contain more than 600 PPM (limit which is safe in paint or drinking water per state of California)

    • Terrymulne

      I damn well care!!! And so should you. The result of all this PVC, lead, etc is the reason for our ailing health in this country. Read up on the effects of lead poisoning low dose over years: heart disease, cancers, Alzheimer’s etc. Europe has even banned it’s use!

      This is not a conspiracy theory. It’s flat out reality. If you are not so concerned, then keep buying products from China. Give your babies pacifiers and toys with PVC so their heath and development can be affected. Geese!!!

  • Jane Doe

    Wow, for once I agree with Bob!


    The lead standards are for drinking water; it’s ridiculous to think a handbag is in the same class as food.

  • Bob

    One more thing, did anybody bothered to ask what about clothes that we are wearing? I think our body is in contact more with clothes that we wear than the purse!

  • Belle

    Wow… I’m so glad I decided to give up PVC handbags (and I guess this is the push I need to give up my shinny lipstick red PVC purse that no longer suites me).

  • Rashida

    Scary. We all need to do our research on the garments that we buy and bring home around our families. I want my family and my kitty to be safe! I don’t carry fake leather bags anyhow. But still, time to be responsible and accountable.

  • mochababe73

    And people wonder why I don’t buy handbags made out of PVC.

  • Linda

    This is an alarming article which really shouldn’t go ignored. Gone are the days of Federal/State regulations to protect us it seems. I guess this was the one way to curb my spending! While I am very leary about the manufacturing of clothing, especially since it doesn’t get checked for lead, I am hoping that washing the garments will remove any potential harm!

  • Micheal

    All handbags that are made from China containing at high risk lead level. Comsummers are better off buying products from China.

  • LuLu

    I bought an all leather hand bag. I just read the inside lable, it says 100% cowhide leather with polyvinyl chloride, made in china. there is no way to tell the difference between the leather and the vinyl trim. I think I will return it , but what do I buy now ?

    • katy

      Interesting to say the least. I think that for so long, every item in our closets, and what we wear has been disposable or thought to be disposable. I think the real question is, if there is lead in the bags, and it is in contact with us, and as they wear it gets worse, how do you know it isn’t affecting us. Cancer is on the rise in this country, at major hospitals they are building new oncology units in order to house all of these patients. So the real question is, when are we going to see that this directly impacts our environment. The working conditions in China often are not good, and sometimes even not fair trade. The runoff from these items goes into their drinking water, and ours if it is made here. So the real question is, to support designers who are trying to make less of a footprint on the earth, like Stella McCartney, Linda Loudermilk, Muratori handbags etc. And buy handbags from companies that are doing their best to have stellar practices. They may not be the cheapest, but you cannot have it both ways, as it costs often 30% more to produce these items, in a fair trade place with chrome free leathers, vegetable tanned. It is not easy, but it needs to be done in order to preserve what we have. So the question is not whether or not their is a conspiracy with the leather handbag owners vs the others, the question is when are we going to take responsibility for our actions?? and when are “they” the companies going to take responsibilities and change their ways?

  • foofie

    This stinks. I buy non leather bags, trying to live a cruelty-free lifestyle, but what can you do? I can still buy fabric bags, but they usually aren’t as durable. Oh well.

  • Elyse

    that’s awful! is there an updated list? (fb)


    i have seen your blog. its really good, i am also working on these topics. keep updates

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  • Cotton Bags

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  • Smythe Blazer

    Women like handbag. When women go out, there are lots of things that they need to take, such as cosmetics, mirrors, purse and cell phones. These things cannot be carried by their hands, so they choose handbags to serve as their friends. When you read at this you may see that women are troublesome, yes, to some extent. Women should makeup when they attend some formal occasions, so they need to take their cosmetic to refine their makeup. What is exactly the good handbag for women to take their belongings?

  • PlethoraPlatud

    I just found the most beautiful white “leather?”, hand bag
    I ever saw in my life, at a church rummage sale. I brought
    it home and cleaned it up throughly with saddle soap,
    windex and lysol.. Could not wait to use it. And then
    I looked in side and found this tag 100% polyvinylchoride
    inside so I googled it.. and here I am !!
    I had and open sore on my finger tip, not bleeding
    or anything. I hope that I have not introduced Lead
    into my blood stream. I am worried.
    From now on only cloth purses for me !
    How can they do this to us ? Anything for money
    even if we die.. It is pure greed.
    I wonder if it will effect my health from touching
    this bag.!

  • Veronica71605

    I just discovered that Gigi Hill bags have trace amounts of lead in their PVC bags. Although they say that their numbers are lower than Prop 65 requires, I think that ANY lead in my diaper bag is just bad news–especially when I keep my baby’s pacifier, clothes, and toddler’s food in there!  And what happens to the numbers when you have more than one bag??? It is so very appalling that these companies have the audacity to market bags to consumers knowing that they are harmful not only to people but also to the environment as they are un-recycleable. When I called to complain, they basically said, it’s in everything so you are free to make whatever decision you want in your home. If you purchased it after 30 days, we will not take it back. Too bad.

  • Cartermarti

    How scary I would like to know if my Fossil shoulder bag contains lead as well. I can’t seem to find any answers

  • Awesome post, Thanks for sharing as earlier I was not aware of this facts and also you have provided the safety from these lead which are found in women’s handbags. One more thing I want to add is, that you haven’t provided us which kind of handbags we should opt for us? please let me know the genuine leather bags………….. if you list of them.

  • donna3

    just bought a lovely imoshiam handbag..returning it tomorrow after reading the small inner tag that says it has levels of lead in it..this is printed in red under ALERT..no thanks..going back to my roots leather handbags..cows came first not all this pvc and chemical garbage.