New website helps identify lead in products

September 16, 2009 5:53:18 PM PDT
This consumer report involves our health and the toxic chemicals found in the things we buy like toys, jewelry, baby products and more. Now, a group wants to make it easier to find out if a product is safe.

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On Wednesday, environmental and consumer groups launched a huge online database -- where you can see which products were found to contain toxic chemicals like lead or arsenic. And to make their point, they took to the streets to show there may be high levels of lead in one of your favorite accessories.

You might not think of a handbag as remotely dangerous; women carry them all the time.

Surprisingly, Carolyn Cox of Oakland's Center for Environmental Health said "In yellow purses, we find lead fairly often."

Cox said many handbags, especially yellow ones, contain high levels of lead which could be absorbed through the carrier's skin and that can be harmful, especially to a woman's unborn child. On Wednesday the group offered free handbag testing in downtown San Francisco.

Alyssa Snow was especially glad her bag is ok. She said "I guess my purse is fine. It didn't detect any lead so that makes me happy because I'm pregnant too."

Another woman found out her brand new red handbag has 65 percent more lead than the standard for children's products.

"Yeah, I didn't expect there to be lead in my purse," said Molly Summers from San Diego. "It's probably going to go in the trash."

The day's testing coincided with the launch of a new website. At HealthyStuff.org you can look up test results for 900 products to see if they contain toxic chemicals like lead, mercury and arsenic and at what level. The database is the largest of its kind in the country and includes things like children's toys, pet toys, cars, and handbags.

"It's not right that people have to be in this position of not knowing what's safe to buy at the stores," said Michael Green from the Center for Environmental Health. "What the database can do for the public is if they're thinking about buying something that they think might have lead, they can actually look it up."

The website is put together by a coalition of environmental groups that do their own testing. And they will take your suggestions of which products they should test next. Already there's a clamoring to test mattresses.

LINK: Healthy Stuff website

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