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Toys & Lead
Lead is a well known hazard. Children may be exposed to lead from toys that have been made in other countries and then imported into the country, or from antique toys and collectibles passed down thought generations. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issues recalls of toys that could potentially expose children to lead. Consumers wishing to test object to determine lead content are faces with several choices.
How to obtain more information about recalls
The CPSC asks that parents search their children’s toys for items that have been recalled and take them away from children immediately. Photos and descriptions of recalled toys can be found by visiting the CPSC (www.cpsc.gov) website or 1-800-638-2772.
Lead in Toy Jewelry has also been found in many retail stores. If you have concerns about Lead in Toy Jewelry see www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead.faq/jewelry. Or visit www.cpsc.gov for past and present recalled items.
Lead may be used in two aspects of toy manufacturing.
Paint: Lead may be found in the paint on toys. Lead paint was banned for the use in house paint, on products marketed to children, and dishes or cookware in the United States in 1978: however it is still widely used in other countries and therefore the reason it can be found in imported toys. It may also be found on older toys made in the United States before the ban in 1978.
Plastics: Lead may also be used in plastic toys to stabilize the plastic molecules from heat. It makes the plastic more flexible and softens the plastic so that it can go back to its original shape. The use of the lead in plastics has not been banned. When the plastic is exposed to substance such as sunlight, air, and detergents the chemical bond between the lead and plastics breaks down and forms a dust.
How your child may be exposed.
Lead is invisible to the naked eye and has no smell. Children may be exposed to lead from consumer products through normal hand-to-mouth activity. As a part of normal development, young children often place their toys, fingers, and other objects in their mouth, which put them in contact with the lead paint or dust.
How to test toys and other consumer products for lead.
There are several different testing methods that can be conducted to test lead in toys. Consumers can send products to a certified laboratory for analysis. It is important to make sure the laboratory is recognized under the EPA’ Lead Laboratory Proficiency Analytical Testing Program www.epa.gov/lead/pubs/nllaplist.pdf. Some lab testing methods may result in destruction of product. Be sure to ask the laboratory about their testing methods, procedures and cost prior to authorizing testing services from a certified laboratory.
X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) is a non destructive method of testing for lead content. It has been used successfully for measuring lead in soil and paint, including paint on children’s toys, furniture, and other objects. Lead-based paint inspectors and some laboratories may have these devices, which exist in both portable and fixed forms. Portable XRF devices allow consumers to have items tested in more convent locations such as home or schools. Consumers can also request measurement of lead in paint in their home using these devices. Consumers should only use state or EPA licensed or certified lead-based paint inspectors to perform these tests. A list of such inspectors can usually be obtained from the State Health Department or by contacting the National Lead Information Center at 1-800-424-LEAD. Inspectors should confirm that the XRF instrument they use has a Performance Characteristics Sheet, which is an independent evaluation of the device from the federal government. When testing your toys with a XRF analyzer, safe levels for toys read both at 600 ppm and 1mg/cm or less for lead. Cost per reading depends on the number of samples to be analyzed and the inspector’s time.
Do-it-yourself swab kits are available but they are much less reliable and may provide false readings. This is often due to the presents of a product overcoating. At the time of testing the overcoat may be fully intact, not allowing the test swab to make direct contact with the paint underneath, resulting in a false since of security that the toy is safe. Over time the over coat may dissipate exposing potentially lead hazards.
What to do it you are concerned about your child’s exposure.
If you have any reason to suspect that your child has been exposed to lead, have your child tested immediately. Your child’s health care provider can help you decide whether to perform a blood test to see if your child has an elevated lead level. A blood lead test is the only way you can tell if your child has an elevated lead level. Your health care provider can recommend treatment if your child has been exposed to lead.
The recommendation is that all children receive blood lead testing at 1, 2. Children could be at risk if they have been exposed to hazardous imported products, live or visit a home build before 1978, receive Medicaid benefits and or live in a Superfund zone. Contact the local EPA information center to see if your home or property is within the Superfund area at 1-877-LEAD-411 or visit the EPA’s website at www.epa.gov.
The State of Maine mandates that all children at ages of 1 and 2 years old, receiving Medicaid benefits have annual blood lead testing.
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Maine CDC/Lead Poison Prevention Fund provides a comprehensive response through collaboration, coordination, and education to prevent and eliminate childhood lead poisoning in Maine. Visit their website at www.maine.gov/healthyhomes.