Reusable bags good for the earth, but bad for you? - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Reusable bags good for the earth, but bad for you?

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MIRAMAR (CBS 8) - Reusable bags are supposed to be good for the environment, but now we're learning that they may be bad for your health. New reports show some of the bags contain unsafe levels of lead.

They are billed as a way to save the planet from millions of plastic grocery bags going into our landfills, and while they are the better choice, a new health concern over them just sprouted up. One senator is calling for a federal investigation.

The concept of a reusable bag isn't new, but the health concern that popped up in the Southeast may soon affect every grocery store shopper across the country. Lead was found in the paint used as the decoration on reusable bags from the Winn-Dixie and Publix supermarket chains.

"As more of these products are being tested by independent groups, the media, by the government, they're starting to raise flags. Maybe this is something we need to take a look at," Tampa Tribune writer Richard Mullins said.

The Tampa Tribune ran a number of bags through a lab and determined some contain more lead than the federal government allows.

"Guess where most of these bags are made -- China," Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) said.

Senator Schumer is calling for a federal Investigation into the businesses in China who aren't following the United States' strict safety guidelines.

"Lead can be contained in dye or paint that are contained on products like bags or toys," San Diego Health Department Dr. Dean Sidelinger said.

Doctor Sidelinger says it's still early into the investigation and it's not yet clear how many grocery store chains across the country, or the county of San Diego for that matter could potentially be affected by lead paint covered bags, but shoppers concerned can take steps in the meantime.

"If you have these bags at home and you're concerned at all the best thing to do if you're putting food products in there like produce and other things you're going to eat, wash those products thoroughly before you eat them yourself or give them to your family," Dr. Sidelinger said.

Obviously, lead poisoning could occur if the paint from the bags is somehow ingested. Health officials say keep the bags away from kids who may chew or perhaps pick at the design.

The other major concern is for when these bags make their way to our landfills and the lead from the paint absorbs into the groundwater.

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