A Lead Lunch?

     Are vinyl lunch boxes a cause of concern for lead poisoning? ABCs Good Morning America warned that children might be poisoned by their lunches in its November 4 broadcast, despite government tests that showed no danger from lunch boxes.

     Charles Gibson began the story saying, Nearly half a million children are permanently injured by lead poisoning each year. The Center for Environmental Health tested some imported lunch boxes, and around 15 percent had small amounts of lead. This was upsetting to reporter Elizabeth Leamy.

     Leamy interviewed people who were shocked and found it very upsetting. However, later in her story she presented evidence that there was no cause for concern.

     She referred to testing by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), a federal agency, which found its tests of vinyl lunch boxes show no such hazardous levels of accessible lead. Then later she said that the amount of accessible lead is well below hazardous levels.

     Those facts came after Leamy reminded viewers that Ingesting even small amounts can cause developmental problems, learning disabilities, even brain-damage. She didnt define small amounts or give the context of how much lead people are exposed to naturally. The EPA has set the Action Level for lead at 15 parts per billion (ppb) for home water systems. People regularly ingest some lead via water or other ways, but Good Morning America did not offer any comparison between everyday lead exposure and the amount found in lunch boxes.

     Leamy did ask the all-important question, Can hazardous amounts of lead that come off on food or children's hands and get into their mouths? Hal Stratton from the CPSC said that We are worried about lead that is accessible. If theres lead in a product and you dont get it into your system then its not a problem. It has to be ingested into your system for lead to be a problem.

     CPSCs Web site identified how much lead was in the vinyl lunch boxes: The staff tested the inside and outside of each lunch box and the preliminary results were consistently below one microgram (one millionth of a gram) of lead. This is an extremely low level of lead and would not present a health hazard to children.

     Learmy ended the segment showing Gibson how to test for lead in lunch boxes. The two boxes she tested came up negative.