Why Are Toys Containing Lead or Lead Paint Dangerous?

Toys with Lead Paint
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Exposure to lead in toys and fake jewelry poses serious health issues, especially for young, growing children.

Lead, which is not visible and does not have an odor, has been used in the manufacturing of paint and toy items. This substance can be absorbed by the body and cause serious, long-lasting health conditions.

Through innocent play, babies and young toddlers explore toys through licking, chewing and placing items in their mouth. As children have growing bodies and minds, ingesting lead can make them a prime target to the damaging effects of lead poisoning.

What are the most common sources for lead poisoning?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most common sources for lead poisoning in children can be from paint, as well as toys manufactured with lead in the paint, plastic or metal.

In the United States the use of lead in household paints was banned prior to 1978. As paint chips and peels off walls and windowsills in older homes that have not been de-leaded, this can pose a threat to young children who may ingest the dust, particles or paint chips.   

Countries without strict qualitative regulations may manufacture toys that include lead. These toys can then be imported by the United States, which serves as another cause of lead paint poisoning. 

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, metal toy jewelry, crayons, chalk and clothing are other sources of lead paint poisoning.

Aside from toys, lead can also contaminate soil, old playground equipment, cosmetics, food containers, drinking water, and antiques.

How do I know if my child has lead poisoning?

If you are concerned that your child has been exposed to lead, consult your child's doctor or pediatrician. Lead levels are measured with a simple blood test.

What are the symptoms of lead poisoning?

A child who has a blood lead level of 10-20 micrograms/dL may not exhibit symptoms but the lead can cause lower IQ scored, hyperactivity, behavioral problems and slowed growth. At levels above 40 micrograms/dL, symptoms can include abdominal pain, constipation, loss of appetite, agitation, lethargy and seizures. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, children who test with 5 micrograms/dL or more of lead in their blood will require treatment in order to intervene as quickly as possible. There is no defined level of lead which is said to be safe. 

How do I prevent my child being exposed to lead paint?

If you suspect a toy may have been manufactured with lead or lead paint, take the toy away from your child and throw it away. Do not donate the toy.

Do not allow your children to play with toys that have been removed from toy stores as the result of a toy recall that has been initiated by the safety commission. These toys have been identified as unsafe toys.

Be careful when allowing your child to play with old or antique toys that might be present within a friend and family members home. Do not allow your child to put these types of toys in their mouth, and offer newer toys that are safe for teething as an alternative. 

Should I use a home testing kit?

Companies and toy manufacturers use laboratories to test toys for safety before they can be sold. These are the most reliable sources for testing. Home testing kits can be purchased, but have not been reported to be as reliable as these sources.

If your child has ingested a toy accidentally, call 911. 

Should you have any questions or concerns regarding your child's safety follow-up with your child's doctor and ask for a blood test.