Tests performed by CTV News have revealed that reusable shopping bags used by four retailers in B.C. all contain small amounts of lead.

A random sample of bags used by the IGA, Whole Foods, Toys ‘R Us and Thrifty Foods was chosen for the test, performed at BCIT.

"They all tested positive for lead, and then one of the bags had very high levels, especially in the area on the outside of the bag that was pigmented or had a painted logo," chemistry instructor Angela Duso said.

The highest levels were found in the Whole Foods bag, with 49 parts per million in the cloth and more than 1,000 parts per million in the logo.

"It was never something that I thought of that would contain lead, to be honest," Duso said.

The Toys ‘R Us bag, which features a glossy graphic on the side, contained 43 parts per million of lead. Both the IGA and the Thrifty Foods bags tested under 10 parts per million.

Some people fear that as reusable bags get older, fibres and paint chips containing lead could fall off and be accidentally ingested.

Duso says that's possible, but likely not a huge risk.

"Most of the food that probably enters the bag is packaged already as well, so the actual food isn't coming into contact with the bag," she said.

But despite the small amounts of lead found in the bags tested, there's still reason to be worried, according to Sandra Cottingham, co-author of the book Lead Babies.

"The bottom line is that, despite what lead levels they say are safe, the current research is really showing that there is no safe level of lead," she said.

Health Canada has not established maximum allowable lead contents for reusable shopping bags, and says that it is up to manufacturers to test their own products.

CTV News has contacted the four companies that use the tested bags, and two have responded so far.

Whole Foods says that it will have a full response to the test results on Wednesday, but wants to assure customers that safety is its top priority.

Thrifty Foods says that it conducts its own testing on bags, and also commissions third-party testing.

With a report from CTV British Columbia's Maria Weisgarber