Remember that lead-in-reusable-bags problem that made news a few weeks back? Now we’ve got another company that’s been giving out bags tainted with lead — and this time, it’s a green-minded company! Lululemon Athletica, a Canadian company that makes organic workout gear and says it makes “socially responsible business decisions,” is now taking back bags that were printed using ink that contains lead.

As with other companies with bags that were found to contain lead, Lululemon asserts that the lead doesn’t create health problems. The concern, according to the company, has to do with the environmentally safe disposal of the bags once they’ve been used. According to Lululemon’s website:

The good news is that our preliminary review does not indicate that any of the shoppers [bags] pose health or safety concerns, and that all of the shoppers [bags] comply with all applicable health and safety regulations. However, preliminary test results related to four of the bag designs indicate that they potentially present disposal issues related to the environment due to the ink lead content. 
How could a green-minded company let this type of problem occur? Lululemon says the problem bags were made by a new supplier, “which is known for its green practices.” What Lululemon doesn’t mention on its website is that this supplier is located in China — a fact you’d only know if you owned one of these bags and looked at the tag, or read media accounts of the lead-tainted Lululemon bags, including this one from the Edmonton Journal.

The news has fans of Lululemon — like M.J. Prest of eco-fashion blog Ethical Style — bemoaning the company’s choice to shift more of its production to China. “It’s a disheartening move for the Canadian company, and with this most recent lead scare, we hope they will reconsider contracting with overseas suppliers with lacking quality-assurance standards,” opines M.J.

Even more troubling is the Edmonton Journal’s report that Lululemon employees were told the bags contain an unknown amount of lead and were instructed to return the bags days before notices went out to the public. According to the Edmonton Journal, Lululemon sent notices to the public only after the newspaper contacted the company about the lead issue.

Lululemon’s website emphasizes that the bags are safe to use, with further caveats that the company is still studying the issue. Do you own a Lululemon bag? See if your bag is one of the ones affected, and then follow the instructions to return the bag to Lululemon for safe disposal.

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