Bright colors and fashionable looks make handbag a preferred accessory for every woman. Can a stylish handbag, bought from a big retail outlet create severe health problems?


Millions of women's health is under potential risk, just because of their fashionable handbags; notable brands, the ones bought from reputed stores. This is because of lead, a poisonous metal that is widely used in handbags, and other fashion accessories. Vinyl and other faux leather materials, or the pigments used to color the products can impart lead into the human body says a health centre of California. Faux leather handbags are used by women almost everyday. It would be appalling to know that handbags contain lead, that too to an extent which will create serious health issues.


The Center for Environmental Health conducted a survey with the handbags sold by top 100 retailers such as Macy's, Kohl's, Kmart, JC Penny, Guess, Victoria's Secrets, Target etc. These bags were screened and tested for lead content using an x-ray fluorescence analyzer. The tests were done in two ways; one by simply rubbing off the bag to check the lead content, and the second one was an elaborate test to find out the total lead present in the bag. Results exposed a shocking high level of lead present in the handbags. (Source: Press Release, Centre for Environmental Health, &sec=article&uinfo=<%=server.URLEncode(2700)%>">


High level of lead was found in womens vinyl and faux leather purses, handbags, and wallets. The lead can be rubbed off easily with the hands of people. It is linked with many hazardous health impacts such as strokes, heart attacks, blood pressure and many other problems. A research even states that low level of regular exposure to lead, can, in the long run lead to issues in the mental abilities of young women.

Nearly all the bags tested with lead content were made in China. They have lead salts added to stabilize the vinyl polymer. Manufacturers and retailers should ensure that their products meet the customer regulatory standards focusing to avoid such ingredients. Earlier there were no specific standards as to the content of lead in purses. New industry wide standards are set currently, limiting the quantity of lead used in handbags and other fashion accessories. As per the new standards, regulations have been brought to the maximum quantity of lead, which can be used.

  • Not more than 90 parts of lead can be used in surface coatings.
  • Not more than 600 ppm of lead can be used in leather items, which is considered for a further reduction during 2011.
  • Not more than 300 ppm of lead can be used in vinyl, which is considered to be further reduced too 200 ppm by 2011.
  • Not more than 300 ppm of lead can be used in any other materials; apart from crystals.

The agreement sets limits for the retail giants regarding the lead content in womens handbags. Around 40 big players have signed an agreement to comply with the standards. American Eagle, Diesel usa, eBags, Guess, H&M, JC Penney, Kohls, Liz Claiborne, Mango NY, Macys, Target, and Victorias Secrets are a few to name. (Source: CEH).


Millions of women all over the world use handbags and other accessories regularly. Focus on the chemicals used in them will help to minimize health threats and enable conservationism. Bags and wallets made from natural materials would be a better option.