Introduction: Tamara Rubin is an independent advocate for consumer goods safety, and she is also a mother of Lead-poisoned children. She began testing consumer goods for toxicants in 2009 and was the parent-advocate responsible for finding Lead in the popular fidget spinner toys in 2017. She uses high-precision XRF testing (a scientific method used by the Consumer Product Safety Commission) to test consumer goods for contaminants including Lead, Cadmium, Mercury and Arsenic. [bio link]
Originally posted: July 20, 2019
Updated: March 14, 2020
Authentic Louis Vuitton Bag, c. 2001
I tested this bag in 2019. The owner of this purse told me she purchased it new in Paris (direct from the manufacturer) about 20 years ago, c. 2001. To see more authentic Louis Vuitton purses I have tested, click here. I first tested a purse from this brand about a decade ago and I have known (since that time) that these Louis Vuitton purses often contain high levels of Lead (I mention this at a lot of my testing parties, and also whenever I see one of these purses “in the wild”.) The purse pictured in this post actually had a much lower level of Lead than many of the other Louis Vuitton examples that I have tested and – surprisingly – it did not test positive for some of the other main toxicants I look for (Mercury, Arsenic). I say “surprisingly” as many Louis Vuitton purses that I have tested have been positive for multiple toxicants. This particular purse (pictured here) was positive for trace levels of Antimony however.
Where have you found the Lead in Louis Vuitton purses?
Lead can be found in many of the metal hardware components of the Louis Vuitton pieces as well as the leather and fabric elements of the purses and wallets. Nearly EVERY ONE OF THESE that I have tested has had at least one component that was very high Lead. I tested a different one this month that had a snap that was more than 17,000 ppm Lead – and the gold plating (on what is apparently a Leaded brass base for the snap) was wearing off!
To reiterate, in this post I am referring to the actual branded (authentic) Louis Vuitton bags. Not knock off bags. While I don’t personally use purses (I am a “washable canvas bag” girl myself), I am disappointed that a brand name that so many people trust has such a consistent issue with toxicants in their (very high-end) products. You would think that at this price point, consumers could expect purses to be Lead-free (and Arsenic-free, for that matter), but that is simply not true.
An interesting irony
In my experience testing consumer goods over the past decade, it is more often than not the high-end purses (the more expensive ones) that test positive for Lead, Mercury, Cadmium and Arsenic. Lower end purses (cheaper / more affordable ones) are often free of those heavy metals. I have tested several purses sold at Target (for example) that have been free of most (if not all) heavy metal toxicants.
How much Lead is too much Lead?
The amount of Lead that is considered toxic in a newly manufactured item intended for use by children is anything 90 ppm Lead or higher (in the paint, coating or glaze) or anything 100 ppm or higher in the substrate. A purse is not considered to be an item intended to be used by children, so it is not regulated with comparable limits on the presence toxicants (including Lead, Mercury, Arsenic and Cadmium.)
In fact, to my knowledge, there is no current (national or international) standard or limit for XRF-detectable Lead content in purses. The context I use for concern about these items is that, while purses may not be regulated, items intended for use by children ARE regulated. This becomes a relevant concern in that children often grab or play with their mother’s purse — and if mama is carrying her baby on her hip, many/most babies will sometimes grab the strap or clasp to her purse and start teething or chewing or mouthing it.
Purses are not toys, but kids still play with them!
Do you think kids don’t also play with these high end purses and handbags? Think again! Any mama with a baby will usually let her baby play with their bag (no matter how fancy the bag), and some mamas will even buy smaller versions of these bags for their children to play with! In my opinion, purses should be regulated to the same standards as toys – given the potential and likely eventual use by children.
Even Kylie Jenner lets her baby play with purses from this brand!
Here’s a link to a video (from Kylie Jenner) that shows her baby Stormi playing with her new Louis Vuitton bag! Note: I have not tested the exact purse shown in Kylie’s video, but would love to pop over to her house and test all of the purses in her “purse closet“! Hey Kylie (& Kim & Khloe!), I just live a bit north of you – up in Portland, Oregon – and can pop down to Los Angeles pretty much any time! Let me help you protect your babies! ;-).
XRF readings for the purse pictured
The exact readings for the purse pictured here (with a 30-second measurement using an Niton XRF instrument – an XL3T in “consumer goods” mode) were as follows:
Fabric of purse:
(apparently these are made of coated decorated fabric, not leather.)
- Lead (Pb): 483 +/- 36 ppm
- Barium (Ba): 89 +/- 51 ppm
- Chromium (Cr): 595 +/- 180 ppm
- Antimony (Sb): 45 +/- 17 ppm
The zipper on this one was also positive for Lead (see image above).
- Lead (Pb): 811 +/- 53 ppm
This purse (in the two readings that were taken) was negative for Cadmium (Cd), Mercury (Hg) and Arsenic (As).
Why is this a problem?
We should be able to expect better from “trusted” brand names. It will be interesting to see how the company responds to this post! <8 months later… crickets!> […especially now that the CEO of the company has been named the second richest man in the world as of July of 2019! He’s in a position to reactive responsibly about this concern. Let’s hope he does. ]
As always, please let me know if you have any questions.
Thank you for reading and for sharing my posts.