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Toys and Childhood Lead Exposure

Children may be exposed to lead—a well known health hazard. Toys that have been made in other countries and then imported into the U.S. or antique toys and collectibles passed down through generations put children at risk for lead exposure. To reduce these risks, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issues recalls of toys that could potentially expose children to lead.

Lead may be used in two aspects of toy manufacturing.

Paint: Lead may be found in the paint on toys. It was banned in house paint, on products marketed to children, and in dishes or cookware in the United States in 1978; however, it is still widely used in other countries and therefore can still be found on imported toys. It may also be found on older toys made in the United States before the ban.

Plastic: The use of lead in plastics has not been banned. It softens the plastic and makes it more flexible so that it can go back to its original shape. It may also be used in plastic toys to stabilize molecules from heat. When the plastic is exposed to substances such as sunlight, air, and detergents the chemical bond between the lead and plastics breaks down and forms a dust.

How your child may be exposed

Lead is invisible to the naked eye and has no smell. Children may be exposed to lead from consumer products through normal hand-to-mouth activity, which is part of their normal development. They often place toys, fingers, and other objects in their mouth, exposing themselves to lead paint or dust.

How to test a toy for lead

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.

What to do if you are concerned about your child’s exposure to lead

If you have any reason to suspect that your child has been exposed to a toy containing lead, remove the toy immediately. Most children with elevated blood lead levels have no symptoms. The only way to tell is to have a blood lead test. Your health care provider can help you decide whether such a test is needed and can also recommend treatment if your child has been exposed.

How to obtain more information about recalls

the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission asks that parents check for possible recalls of their children’s toys and take the toys away immediately if they have been recalled. Photos and descriptions of recalled toys can be found at http://www.cpsc.gov or call 1-800-638-2772.

Source: Center for Disease Control and Prevention

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