Missourians Reminded For Lead In Toys For Young Children

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As people shop for toys, they should keep in mind that some toys could pose a lead poisoning risk, especially for young children under the age of six. With this reminder, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) is offering facts about lead in some toys, tips for people buying toys for young children, and basic information about lead poisoning and prevention.

According to DHSS director Jane Drummond, the toys posing the greatest lead poisoning risk are those made in other countries and imported in the U.S., and antique toys and other collectibles purchased or passed down through the family.

"Not all toys, nor toys for every age group pose a lead poisoning risk," said Drummond. "The greatest risk comes from toys imported from countries with lower environmental safety regulations and less sanitary production processes. We also are most concerned about lead exposure for very young children (six years and younger) since their developing bodies are most easily and seriously affected by lead exposure."

Lead may be found in the paint and/or plastic used in toy manufature. Lead 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 in imported toys. It may also be found in older toys made in the United States before the ban.

Lead is invisible to the naked eye and has no smell. Children may be exposed to it 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.

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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.

If a parent or guardian has 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. Your health care provider or local public health agency can help you decide whether such a test is needed and can also recommend treatment if your child has been exposed.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is a government agency responsible for protecting citizens from unreasonable risks posed by a wide variety of consumer products including toys. CPSC issues recalls on toys that could potentially expose children to hazards such as lead.

The CPSC asks that parents check for possible recalls of their children's toys and take the toys away immediately if they have been recalled.

Drummond said that Missouri families, especially ones with young children living in or regularly visiting the home (including single-family dwellings, duplexes and apartments) should take time to evaluate all lead risks in the home if it was built before 1978. The main causes of lead poisoning continue to be lead-contaminated paint and the dust associated with it. Some tips to prevent lead poisoning are:

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