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King Kullen pulls reusable bags for fear of lead

A Long Island-based supermarket chain has yanked its entire supply of reusable shopping bags from the shelves following disclosures that the environmentally friendly carriers may not be so friendly after all.

King Kullen, with stores in Nassau, Suffolk and Staten Island, pulled about 5,000 of the bags made from a fabric-like material early Monday pending testing to determine if they contain dangerous levels of lead.

"They are currently being tested and will not be brought back for sale until we are certain that the bags meet government standards," King Kullen Vice President Thomas Cullen said in a statement.

Sen. Charles Schumer has called for a federal inquiry into the bags and demanded that they be tested for lead and banned if found to have high levels of the toxin. A Schumer spokesman said officials still were trying to determine the manufacturers responsible for distributing lead-tainted bags.

Wegman's, a supermarket chain with stores in upstate New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia and Maryland, announced in September that it would replace its entire stock of reusable bags after the Empire State Consumer Project, an independent consumer group in Rochester, found bags that contained more than double the amount of lead allowed under New York State standards.

At a King Kullen in Huntington Station, Mary Ann Stachurski Monday was loading groceries into her trunk, where she keeps the reusable bags. She purchased them because she is concerned about the environment. But yesterday, after hearing about the controversy in a radio report, she had her groceries in paper bags.

"These things are supposed to be tested before they are sold," said Stachurski, of Huntington Station. "I'll leave them in the trunk until I find out the results."

Schumer said the bags posed no immediate danger but warned that long-term exposure could pose health and environmental risks.

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