Lead in vinyl lunchboxes: A bigger problem than we first thought

Some time ago, we talked about the presence of lead in some soft vinyl lunchboxes. The topic came up again for me based on this GNM Parents post — apparently the Consumer Product Safety Commission statement I cited in my original post that essentially said "no big deal" may have been a slight, ah, misstatement.

From the Associated Press:

In 2005, when government scientists tested 60 soft, vinyl lunchboxes, they found that one in five contained amounts of lead that medical experts consider unsafe — and several had more than 10 times hazardous levels.

But that’s not what they told the public.

Instead, the Consumer Product Safety Commission released a statement that they found "no instances of hazardous levels." And they refused to release their actual test results, citing regulations that protect manufacturers from having their information released to the public.


B000246Gse.01. Scmzzzzzzz V45689433 I suggest you all get a home lead test kit (it’s a simple swab test) and check those lunchboxes. Most likely, they will be fine, but If you find yourself needing an alternative, seems to me a small fabric tote cooled with an icepack or a frozen juice box would work just as well.

Another option for kids who balk at the traditional sandwich/apple/string cheese combo: Zojirushi Mr. Bento. I’ve been eyeing this ingenious gadget for my husband for quite some time, and it’s on sale at Amazon through tomorrow ($39.99 instead of $64). The reviews there are impressive.

Other suggestions for alternatives to vinyl lunch boxes?

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  1. joelle says

    We use Eagle Creek’s Pack-It half cube for our 3.5 yo’s lunch bag. Light and simple. Not insulated, but her school has a refrigerator available for children to use.

    For us, we use the laptop lunchbox (www.laptoplunches.com). They’re great!

  2. says

    I like any non-vinyl non-plastic solutions. A cloth bag does nicely, but that Mr. Bento looks pretty cool. I’m wondering if those bowls are plastic or ceramic… and do the bowls come with lids or what?

  3. Anonymous says

    I have a To-Go Ware lunchbox that is awesome, it holds enough food to take to a potluck, or snacks enough to last my bottomless pit kids for hours at a sitter’s or out. It’s stainless steel.

  4. Mandy says

    I have a To-Go Ware lunchbox that is awesome, it holds enough food to take to a potluck, or snacks enough to last my bottomless pit kids for hours at a sitter’s or out. It’s stainless steel.
    Oh, and I recommend reusablebags.com for more ideas, including lunchbags made out of recycled juiceboxes, Laptop Lunches, To-Go Ware, and some pretty cute lead-free lunch bags.

  5. says

    Well, I thought I had a problem because I was planning on sedning my kid to school with my old Dukes Of Hazzard metla lunch box. Guess I need to look into those laptop lunches.

  6. Parent Hacks Editor says

    AJ: One of the Amazon reviewers says that all four bowls have lids of different types. I believe the bowls are plastic.

    STL Mom and Mandy: reusablebags.com is fantastic! Thanks for the pointer.

  7. Nicole says

    We use the tin lunchboxes for everyone in our house. I never liked the soft, vinyl lunchbags due to the smell they absorb. I line them with a papertowel and spray them out with orange spray every day.

  8. says

    I splurged and bought a couple of Japanese bento boxes from jbox.com. My son especially loves the Totoro box!! They’re two-tiered and come with little dividers so that the foods-that-must-not-touch do not. An elastic band keeps them closed. I pack the bento box inside a (tested lead-free) lunchbag along with a juice box and terry washcloth. We’ve got the laptop lunchbox too, and we’re poised to like it, but it’s still tricky for my almost 4yo to open on his own.


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