When you are shopping for your kids this Christmas, look out for a serious health hazard the naked eye cannot see: Lead.
After all, toys that have been made in other countries and then imported into the United States, or antique toys or collectibles passed down through generations, often contain lead that puts children at risk for such exposure. To reduce these risks, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issues recalls of toys that could potentially expose children to lead.
But there are steps you can take to protect your children, as well. First, raise your awareness levels; lead may be used in two aspects of toy manufacturing.
- Paint: Lead may be in the paint on toys. It was banned in house paint, on products marketed to children, and in dishes and cookware in the United States in 1978. However, lead is still widely used in other countries and therefore can be found on imported toys.
- Plastic: While regulated, the use of lead in plastics has not been banned in the United States. It softens and stabilizes the plastic; however, when the plastic is exposed to substances such as sunlight, air, and detergents, the plastic breaks down and may form a lead dust.
If you have something at home that seems suspect, get it tested. Only a certified laboratory can accurately test a toy for lead. Although do-it-yourself kits are available, they do not indicate how much lead is present, and their reliability at detecting low levels of lead has not been determined.
If you suspect that your child has been exposed to a toy containing lead, remove the toy immediately. The only way to tell if your child has been exposed to lead is to have the child’s blood tested. Your health care provider can advise whether such a test is needed and also can recommend treatment if your child has been exposed to lead.
If jewelry containing lead is swallowed or put in a child’s mouth, the child can be poisoned.
If your child has put potentially lead-filled jewelry in his or her mouth, see your health care provider. Blood tests will determine whether your child has been exposed to lead and recommend treatment if necessary. Most children with elevated blood-lead levels do not have any symptoms.
However, there is no safe level of lead in blood. As blood-lead levels increase, a larger effect on children’s learning and behavior will occur. A blood-lead test is the only way to know if your child has an elevated lead level.
Just wearing toy jewelry that contains lead will not cause your child to have a high level of lead in their blood. However, small children often put things in their mouth.
If you are in Huntsville and are worried your child may be at risk, you can call the Alabama Poison Center toll-free at 1-800-222-1222. Local resources are also available on the University of Alabama’s Environmental & Industrial Programs Web site. Learn more about lead poisoning and safety tips from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) by clicking here.