Children, Toys, and LeadPoisoning
The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act was passed by Congress last summer, but doesn't go into effect until February 10, 2009. The Act will more tightly restrict the amount of lead allowed in children's toys.
There were several recalled lead-tainted toys in 2007, so what about this year's toys?
Parents can check the Consumer Product Safety Commission for an updated list of toys that have been recalled for lead. Parents can, also, buy inexpensive home testing kits for lead at hardware stores. These kits are not not precise, but can offer a good first estimate.
Lead in toys is of particular concern in children younger than 3 years old. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, they are the most vulnerable. This is because they're more likely to put toys in their mouths. Other sources of lead exposure include the houses or buildings (day care centers, churches, etc)built before 1978. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention these structures are most likely to still have lead based paints. Children are particularly susceptible to "eating" the peeling paint or inhaling the dust.
Lead accumulates in the body gradually, building up unnoticed. This can make lead poisoning can be difficult to detect. Children who appear healthy can have high levels of lead in their bodies.
The signs and symptoms of lead poisoning in children are nonspecific and may include irritability, loss of appetite, weight loss, sluggishness, abdominal pain, vomiting, constipation, unusual paleness (pallor) from anemia, and learning difficulties.
The primary treatment for mild lead poisoning is to stop the exposure. Removal of the source of lead is critical to reducing blood lead levels. For more severe cases, your doctor may recommend treatment called chelation therapy in addition to removal from lead exposure. In chelation therapy, the medicine (chelating agent) you take binds with the lead so that it's excreted in your urine.
American Academy of Pediatrics
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Consumer Reports: Testing Lead-Testing Kits