Watch What You Bag 

Alert: Lead Found in Women’s Handbags

*Scroll below for a list of SAFE BRANDS

High lead levels have been found in other household products including paint, children’s toys and blinds.

ABC broke the story that researchers found extremely alarming levels of lead in some handbags from top retailers. 

The US Center for Environmental Health went to 100 top retailers, including Victoria Secret, H&M, WalMart to buy purses and have the bags tested for lead.

What they found was truly frightening. It was found that bags from all sorts of brands contain lead - from high-end brand purses like Tory Burch that cost USD195 (contained the most amount of lead in their tests) to bags from teenage fashion stores.*

Who Should Be Concerned?

One of the major concerns is for women who are wanting to become pregnant, are pregnant, and their children. Children are known to touch everything and put their hands in their mouths. And mom’s handbag is no exception. 

Effects of Exposure to Lead

One significant disease caused by lead exposure is cancer. Lead exposure has also been linked to higher rates of infertility in women, an increased risk of heart attacks, strokes, and high blood pressure, among other health problems. Scientists are increasingly concerned that there is no safe level of lead exposure, especially for pregnant women and young children.

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Example of a Vinyl bag. Yellow or yellow-tinted bags are tested to have most lead. You may want to skip buying it altogether.

Tips To Protect Yourself

1. Test Your Bag

Unfortunately, there aren’t any complimentary tests for tracings of lead in Singapore, unlike in the US. Prudent consumers can choose to purchase lead test kits to test your bags for the poisonous chemical. A search on Google for “Lead testing in Singapore” led to kits that cost upwards of $14.99. Remember, lead-free bags can mean little to no infertility problems and it’s a step towards living a healthier, possibly cancer-free life. (Just like how we choose to take organic foods & to not smoke)

 2. Go For Natural Materials  

If testing your bags and purses for lead sounds like too much work, you can avoid purses and wallets made of synthetic materials like faux leather, and opt instead for natural materials like canvas or cotton instead.  Faux leather is often made from vinyl (PVC), which is well known for lead contamination.

For the most part, genuine leather bags are not the problem. It is the bags made with PVC, polyvinyl chloride, which may contain lead. Manufacturers find PVC useful when making a synthetic handbag, as it gives the bag pliability and can help brighten colors as it is used in pigment.

Shop from the Safe Stores! Check below.

3. Bright Colored = Dangerous

Avoid brightly colored yellow, orange, red, and green faux leather products. Lead is used to brighten up colors and to create faux leather.

4. Do The Minimum 

If you already own a purse that you suspect might have lead in it, keep it away from small children and be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after touching it. 

There was a legal agreement with four major companies to end lead threats to women from purses, handbags, clutches and wallets. The agreement was with Lerner NY (New York & Company), H&M, Tri-Coastal Designs & Haddad Accessories.

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What now? Do I throw all my beloved bags away? :(

It seems almost impossible to avoid purchasing anything that isn’t 'cancer-causing' anymore. We can only hope we won’t get severely ill in the near future and begin regretting ignoring the warnings we spot along the way. With companies’ priority concern being profits (in turn to pay their workers - so we can’t fault them for it either) & not in checking their materials, we consumers are literally stuck in limbo. 

Shop, but shop with awareness!

You could share this with friends who are trying to get pregnant, or pregnant already, or parents with toddlers.

Account from a staff from Center for Environmental Health who tested the bags:

*“The toxic purses that we’ve found have come from a diversity of stores with different target customers. The item with the highest level of lead is a yellow patent leather wallet by Tory Burch, which I bought at Neiman Marcus for $195. The saleswoman, dressed in designer wear, had to unlock a glass display case for me to inspect the wallet. Before I paid for it, the saleswoman pointed out the abundance of interior pockets and the smooth zipper action, and explained how to best clean and take care of it. 

At the other end of the spectrum, I’ve found lead-filled purses at the bottom of bargain bins, in stores where the teenage cashiers would look up from texting on their phones just long enough to tell me to keep all accessories at the register while looking around the store (presumably to prevent shoplifting), and to inform me of the storewide no-return policy. 

Our compliance testing project has demonstrated a noticeable decrease in the prevalence of lead in handbags. Before the 2010 settlement, about 65% of purses that we tested had high levels of lead in them. Now, in the first few months of compliance testing, we’ve been finding that about 15% of purses tested have lead.”


Here is a list of companies that have came to agreement with Center for Environmental Health.

–Acme Accessories

–AIJJ (Rainbow, 5-7-9 stores)


–American Eagle

–Bag Bazaar

–Camuto Consulting (Vince Camuto brand)

–Coldwater Creek

–Diesel usa

–DSW Shoe Warehouse



–Fantasia Accessories

–Forever 21




–JC Penney

–Jones Apparel (Nine West)



–Liz Claiborne (Juicy Couture, Kate Spade)


–Mango NY

–Metropark USA

–Michael Kohrs


–New York & Company (Lerner NY)

–Pacific Worldwide

–Phillips-Van Heusen/Calvin Klein

–Phillips-Van Heusen/Calvin Klein

–Ray Enterprises (Hobo Intl)


–Saks Inc

–San Diego Hat

–Sanrio (Hello Kitty)


–Steve Madden


–The Dress Barn

–TJX Co (TJ Maxx)

–Urban Brands/Ashley Stewart

–Victoria Secret/Bath & Body Works

–Viewmark USA

The list is from 

Via Generation Green & CEH