U.S. Agency Gives Vinyl Industry a Pass on Lunch Box Lead Content

Kids' vinyl lunch boxes often contain dangerous levels of lead, but government regulators have released to the public only the test results most favorable to industry, according to documents the Associated Press obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request. The Consumer Product Safety Commission found that 20 percent of boxes tested in 2005 contained unsafe amounts of lead--and several contained more than 10 times the safety level. Instead of reporting the findings, the agency used different tests--for example, measuring swabs instead of patches of the material--and then reported the numbers as safe. Lead is used as a binder in some vinyl products, especially those made in China. A spokesman for the Vinyl Institute said, "... [B]asically, we haven't seen any indication of actual harm from the lunch boxes."