’Tis the season to be careful — or risk buying toys containing lead contaminants. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a holiday alert about the potential lead hazards in toys and products used by children.
Possible lead contaminants in toys, according to the CDC:
- Paint: Lead was banned in the United States in 1978, on products marketed to children (as well as in dishes, cookware, and house paint). Unfortunately, other countries still use lead, so it can be found on imported toys. (P.S.: Lead may also be found on toys made in the United States before the ban, a fact to keep in mind when buying antique toys or tag-sale finds, or when accepting older toys passed down in families.)
- Plastic: While regulated, the use of lead in plastics has not been banned in the United States. Lead is used to soften and stabilize the plastic, but when the plastic is exposed to sunlight, air, and detergents, the plastic breaks down and may leech lead as dust.
Playing with lead-tainted toys might disturb lead dust, which can be released into the air and onto a child’s hands. Since children often put toys – and their fingers– into their mouths, they could be actually eating lead dust.
If you suspect your child has played with a toy that contains lead, have the child’s blood tested for lead levels. In addition, since lead dust could be disturbed when the child plays with the toy, have your home tested for lead by an environmental testing company. According to the CDC, a speck of lead dust as small as a grain of sand can poison a child.
Unfortunately, you can’t easily tell how dangerous a toy might be. Do-it-yourself kits can be unreliable and won’t tell you how much lead is present, according to the CDC. Only a certified laboratory can accurately test a toy for lead.
So remember, it’s buyer beware when you purchase toys for your youngsters. You can find a list of all recalled child products, including toys, on the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Web site.