Children :: CPSC corrects record on children’s vinyl lunchboxes

Recent news reports and postings on special interest group Web sites have provided information that incorrectly interprets the findings of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in testing vinyl lunchboxes.

The agency has a longstanding commitment to protecting children from the dangers of lead. CPSC has made a major contribution to the reduced blood lead levels found in children nationwide by carrying out a ban on lead in paint, recalling a record number of pieces of metal jewelry with accessible lead and recalling tens of millions of vinyl mini-blinds that contained lead dust. More recently, the CPSC began rulemaking to consider banning lead from children’s metal jewelry.

Critics of the agency built a story about dangerous lunchboxes around the notion that the political leadership intervened in this matter. Critics equated the initials “HS” in a staff email with then Chairman Hal Stratton. The abbreviation HS is in fact short for CPSC’s Directorate for Health Sciences.

In 2005, CPSC staff scientists tested 60 soft, vinyl lunchboxes. The staff tested the inside and outside surfaces of lunchboxes and found no instances of hazardous levels. If CPSC had found a vinyl lunchbox that had a dangerous amount of lead that was accessible to children and could put them in harm’s way, we would have taken swift action.

The staff risk assessment takes into account children’s behaviors, such as hand to mouth activity, and the accessibility of lead. Under CPSC Federal law, total lead does not dictate action. Instead decisions must consider the real world interaction of child and product and the accessibility of lead from the product.


No matter how the data are analyzed, the staff risk assessment would still conclude that the lead exposure from vinyl lunchboxes does not present a risk to health for action under CPSC’s law.