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Lead Poisoning Still a Threat to Children From Toys, School Supplies


National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week (October 18-24) is a good time to remind parents that lead poisoning is still a very real threat to children. Potential lead poisoning in children has been brought to light recently because of recalls of toy, school supplies, and other items intended for children because they contain lead.

Although the federal government banned the use of lead-based paint in housing in 1978, it can still be found in old buildings that have peeling or chipped paint, on old painted toys and furniture, and in lead crystal or lead-glazed pottery or porcelain. In recent years, items typically used by children have been recalled because lead was used in their manufacture, including toys, cribs, lunch boxes, crayons, chalk, backpacks, and children’s jewelry.

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Lead poisoning is the most common environmental illness in children. The most vulnerable children are those younger than six years, because their brains and nervous systems are still forming. Signs and symptoms of lead poisoning usually don’t become apparent until high levels of the toxin are in the blood. Common symptoms in children include vomiting, abdominal pain, headache, unusual paleness from anemia, loss of appetite, irritability, fatigue, learning disabilities, and constipation. The only way to determine if a child has lead poisoning is to get a blood test.

Consumers can find out if toys, cribs, school supplies, and other products they own or want to buy may contain lead by contacting The Ecology Center, a nonprofit that has accumulated test data on nearly 5,000 products. To access the database, consumers can visit the website (www.healthystuff.org) or send a text message to 30466 while shopping. The message should read KIDS (or NINOS for a reply in Spanish) and the name of the product, and a return message will reveal if the product has been tested for lead. Consumers can also contact the Consumer Product Safety Commission at www.cpsc.gov or 1-800-638-2772. Test kits that allow individuals to test whether the surface of items contain lead can be purchased as well.

In recent months, various toys and other products used by children have been recalled because they contain lead paint. Some of them include action figures, children’s purses and pen cases, children’s animal masks, and jewelry kits. Recalled products should be taken away from children and returned to the store or manufacturer as directed by recall instructions. A website called Lead Paint Toy Recalls lists recalled products and how to return them.

Consumer Product Safety Commission
Environmental Protection Agency
Mayo Clinic
Public Health Trust