Updated post found here.
Lead as you know is toxic to children (and adults for that matter), so it’s important that the place their lunch is stored in is lead-free. Lead can also be ingested from your child touching the bag and then their food. For a list of manufacturers who have agreed to produce lead-safe lunch boxes, check out the CEH’s website.
PVC is toxic as it contains phthalates and lead. The Center for Health, Environment and Justice offers a downloadable guide to PVC-free school supplies.
Safe Mama has a great review/listing of lead and PVC-free lunch boxes for back to school (or even for work!) Here are the ones she mentions, plus some others that I found:
The Cool Tote is a replacement for the traditional brown bag. It’s made of nylon thus lead and other toxin-free. They offer over 50 designs, so you are bound to find something you like. They also claim the product will last for years, which is also a good thing!
Crocodile Creek. These are SO CUTE, and my favorite of the bunch. I saw these at Whole Foods and they are very well-made and have very cute kid-friendly designs like dinosaurs, the solar system, horses (purple for girls) , trucks/vehicles (boyish), girls from around the world, flowers, countries with animals, farm animals and a sunflower. All are PVC, lead and phthalate free. These are a soft lunch box, they have a mesh pocket in back, a zipper pocket in front and the main compartment is insulated. And as mentioned, these look very durable. I want one for myself!
Laptop lunches are good for those who don’t like their food to touch. There are little compartments for separating food. The containers are made of polypropylene (#5) so are BPA-free and they each have lids made of polyethylene (#2). The set also includes a stainless fork and spoon with plastic handles.
LL Bean has a critter lunch box line that is really cute and lead and PVC-free. They have designs with a butterfly, a gecko, panda and several others. They would be great for a tween who wants something stylish without licensed characters.
The Lunch Pak by Fleurville is PVC-free but NOT 100% lead-free, but does exceed California standards for lead and other toxins, so are “considered” lead-free according to the company. It is also a backpack design, but does have a handle to carry like a traditional lunch box. Since it’s not completely lead-free, I probably would not buy it. They also offer a lunch buddy which is more of a traditional lunch box style.
Mimi the Sardine has cute cloth lunch totes that are PVC and lead free. There are several designs such as the ladybug, monkey/elephant/flower pattern, bugs and mice (my favorite).
Munchlers look like zoo animals and they fold out into a placemat, also very cute. They are insulated and made of polypropylene. There are several designs including a yellow tiger, white dog, green bunny and pink panda. They also have a wearable tote, but it fits like a backpack, so not sure how this would work if your child is already carrying a backpack.
ZAK Designs offers several licensed character insulated lunch boxes that are lead free and lined with PVC-free material. Note, they just mention “PVC-free lining” so leads me to believe the entire lunch box may not be PVC-free. I am emailing the company though. Some of the characters available include: iron man, Wall-E, The Little Mermaid, Tinkerbell, Spongebob Square Pants, Diego, Spiderman and many others.
Here is another list I found of PVC-free lunch bags, though I do not know if they are lead-free.
The site also offers 6 tips for a healthier and safer lunch tote:
• Check for “lead safe,” or even better, “lead free” labels.
• Check for “PVC-free,” “Vinyl-free” or “phthalates-free” labels
• If you find none of the above, avoid soft vinyl bags and avoid bags with additional chemicals such as anti-bacterial claims (Microban is one of them), this includes statements like “keeps food fresh longer.”
• If your chosen bag offers no labels, store or wrap all your child’s food individually to avoid contact with the interior lining. Remind your kids to wash their hands before and after lunch.
• To reduce waste, choose re-usable containers and use your own silverware and napkins.
• Don’t refill disposable water bottles. The best choices are stainless steel reusable water bottles.
BPA-free bottles, sippy cups and more!
Non-toxic back packs
BPA and phthalate free pacifiers