Avoiding Lead or Lead Paint in Toys

An old-fashioned top and other antique toys
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Lead, which is not visible and does not have an odor, has been used in the manufacturing of toy items and paint. This substance can be absorbed by the body and cause serious, long-lasting health conditions. Exposure to lead in toys and fake jewelry poses serious health issues, especially for young, growing children.

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.

Common Sources

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most common sources for lead poisoning in children are lead based paint and lead-contaminated dust found in deteriorating buildings.

In the United States, the use of lead in household paints was banned prior to 1978. But paint chips and peels off walls and windowsills in older homes have not been de-leaded; these 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.

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.

A child who has a blood lead level of 10-20 micrograms/dL may not exhibit symptoms, but the lead can cause lower IQ scores, 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 intervention as quickly as possible. There is no defined level of lead which is said to be safe.


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. 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.

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

Home Testing Kits

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 they have not been reported to be as reliable as these sources. 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.

Article Sources
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  1. Childhood Lead Poisoning. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  2. Protect Your Family from Sources of Lead. Environmental Protection Agency.

  3. Recommended Actions Based on Blood Lead Levels. Centers for Disease Control.

  4. Basic Information about Lead in Drinking Water. Environmental Protection Agency.