Is your faux leather handbag carrying high levels of lead?

I’ve coveted Shiraleah’s handbags after spotting them on CMP favorite Darlybird, and I recently scooped up a forest-green pleather style which has gone with me everywhere.
Until this morning.

That’s when my mother told me she’d heard that hundreds of non-leather handbags were found to have excessive levels of lead in them. Yes, lead, which doctors warn has the worst effects on children, pregnant women and women of childbearing age.

[Update: Darlybird - who we continue to love and respect - originally stocked Shiraleah bags because of the very strong eco clams made by the company, and is as disheartened as we are. We have no doubt that the bag manufacturers will respond in a satisfying way.]

What makes me angriest about all of this is that lead was discovered in faux-leather handbags back in April 2009, but it was only last month that the Center for Environmental Health was able to sue four of the largest manufacturers to create the first legally binding rules to end high levels of lead in purses–in California. (As of now, there is no federal standard for lead in purses.) And there are more than a hundred companies whose purses failed the lead test but are not named in the suit.

With a heavy heart, I scanned the list of manufacturers and designers whose bags were cited and found the manufacturer of my favorite new bag along with surprising names like Bloomingdale’s, Cole Haan, Kate Spade, Tumi, and Tori Burch. (Can’t say we’re as shocked to see discount brands like WalMart, Express and Forever 21 mentioned.)

If you are like me and have switched to non-leather for animal rights reasons, or simply because it’s more affordable, you need to see if your bag is in this long, long list of offenders.

But, note: Leather bags are not off the hook just yet unless they’re vegetable-dyed; they just have not been tested as far as we know.

Right now, we’re checking on a few of the bags we’ve featured here to see what we can find out. In the meantime, I’ve been looking at vegetable-dyed leather bags as an alternative, but, as someone who has sworn off leather for almost 20 years, this is a bitter pill to swallow. And even as I come to terms with this news, I am quite literally waiting for the other shoe to drop: It will be just a matter of time before I find out that my non-leather shoes are doused in lead as well. Ugh.

We will continue to update this story, so please check back.

UPDATE: We’ve checked in with Crystalyn Kae, maker of some of our favorite vegan leather handbags, who has reassured us that her US-made bags do not have high lead levels, and that the glazed fabrics she uses comply with domestic standards for children’s goods.

Christina

Senior Associate Editor Christina Refford loves homeschooling, running, cool kids’ music, and coffee. Not in that order.

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