The risk from lead occurs when a child put a toy in his mouth. This is of greatest danger to children under two because they naturally explore the world with their mouths, and also have fast growing brains. Low levels of lead affect brain development and can cause developmental delays in young children. Lead has also been shown to effect adult brains, is toxic the kidneys and blood and is a powerful carcinogen. There are no symptoms for lead poisoning, so all children should be tested for lead exposure.
There are two types of lead contamination in toys. Surface (or coated) lead and embedded (or substrate) lead.
Most of the recent recalls are due to surface lead. The Consumer Product Safety Commission regulates surface coated lead and has set the standard at no more than 600 ppm (parts per million). There are no regulations for non-toy products.
Embedded or substrate lead is often used as an additive in such materials as vinyl or plastic, which is why Christmas tree lights now come with a lead warning label. Toys or children’s products with embedded lead meet all federal safety standards. Why? Because there are no safety standards.
Yet, health experts warn that even embedded lead has no place in products for children as even low level exposure poses a health risk. The CPSC reports that a four-year old boy died from lead poisoning after ingesting a jewelry charm with embedded lead. Wal-Mart and Toys R Us voluntarily recalled bibs this year due to concerns regarding embedded lead.
Things to know about lead in toys
I stole this, (and much of the info presented here) with some editing, from The Oppenheim Toy Portfolio website.
- Toys Made in the USA are not guaranteed to be lead-free. A toy can be labeled "Made in the USA", but if it has component parts that are imported, there can be a lead problem.
- The federal government permits surface painted lead up to 600 parts per million and has no restrictions on lead that is embedded in a toy. Only the State of Illinois regulates embedded lead.
- Embedded lead is a problem. The CPSC reports that a 4-year old child died from lead poisoning after swallowing a charm on a bracelet that was reputed to have embedded lead. Health experts warn that even low-level lead exposure can be harmful.
- Buying from a large reputable store does not guarantee safety. Even though big retailers often require companies to verify safety, most of the recalled products to date have been sold at large chain stores.
- Buying from a big toy company does not guarantee safety. Companies involved this year in recalls include such giants as Mattel, RC2 and Spinmaster.
- Buying from a small mom and pop store does not guarantee safety. Unfortunately smaller toy stores do not have the resources to require companies to do lead testing before accepting products for sale.
- Buying from small manufacturers does not guarantee safety. There have been many recalls this season from smaller manufacturers.
- Lead is not only a problem with metal toys. Lead can be painted on wood, fabric and plastic as well as injected into plastic and vinyl.
- Plush Toys are NOT guaranteed to be safe. While most fabric toys do not have lead, you do need to watch out for fabric that has been painted. The recalls of fabric blocks and a plush Curious George doll underscores the possibility of lead contamination in fabric toys.
- Lead in Toys is a Fixable Problem. With stricter government regulation, mandatory batch testing, and a total ban on all types of lead, consumers can feel confident again about toy safety.
What can we do?
We as parents can make a difference by not buying from companies that have had recalls. The only way to force the toy companies to become responsible, is to stop buying their products until they do. Sara's Toy Box will continue to list safer toy alternatives.
You can also write to your to your senator or congress person to request tougher standards
Check your child's play room (at home, school, daycare, friends houses) for recalled toys. A complete (and constantly growing) list is at cpsc.gov. Please check this list frequently.
Remove any recalled toys immediately. Check the CPSC.gov website for the procedure for refunds/exchanges.
If you are at all concerned that your child has been exposed to lead, have your child tested. Low-level lead poisoning has no symptoms. Your pediatrician can do a simple blood test.
According to the experts, at home lead testing kits are not reliable.
Let's keep our children safe and healthy.