Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Testing Toys for Lead Paint

Motivated by recalls of foreign-made toys containing lead, the U.S. Senate sent a clear message Tuesday that hazardous products should not be part of child’s play. They passed legislation that increases funding for the Consumer Product Safety Commission-the agency charged with ensuring the safety of toys.

The bill also increases penalties and enforcement against companies that produce harmful products. The U.S. House passed similar legislation in December, but the White House has expressed some concerns over the Senate version. It’s not clear at this point when the bill will reach the house floor for an approval vote.

That means there is still no guarantee the toys our kids are playing with are safe. The station where I work, HOI 19, held a toys testing event last week. Oxford Instruments came down from Chicago with one of its XRF machines, the same machines the Consumer Product Safety Commission uses to screen its toys. I was shocked by what we found at the toy test.

First of all, the toys I brought from home that had been recalled for having lead based paint all came back clean-no lead. (The CPSC recalls all of one kind of toy if it finds a bad batch because there's no way of tracking which batch contained the lead paint.)

Secondly, one stacking block failed, but the other four from the same package passed.

Lastly, just because one toy tests negative for toxins doesn't mean another one that looks exactly the same and is the same brand will test negative.

The main things to keep in mind:

1. Kid's jewelry often contains levels of lead that exceed the federal limit, which is 600 parts per million. One necklace we tested had 10,000 parts per million of lead.

2. Toys bought in other countries are likely to contain high amounts of heavy metals because there are little or no lead laws in other countries. We tested two wooded flutes from Guatemala that had around 46,000 parts per million of lead. Yikes!

3. There is no color that is more likely to test positive than another.

The best thing for parents to do is to go to a toy test and make sure their child's toys don't contain lead or other heavy metals. That isn't an option for most parents, so the Consumer Product Safety Commission recommend signing up on its website to receive the recall list directly to your inbox. I know as a mom, getting warned about a toy after you bought it isn't optimal, but we don't really have a choice at this point.

Kids under three-years-old are the ones we need to be concerned about the most when it comes to lead poisoning. They tend to put toys in their mouths, making them more susceptible. There is no magic pill to get lead out of a child's system overnight. There are some vitamin therapies and chelation that some parents think help, but a lot of the time, the lead never fully leaves a child's system. It gets embedded in the bone.

The number one cause of lead poisoning is not lead found in toys, it's lead found in homes built before 1978(the year lead paint was banned in the U.S.) Cracked and peeling paint is the biggest concern, but even well maintained homes can contain lead dust. Lead paint can also be found in furniture, especially antiques.

The Peoria City/County Health Department recommends all kids get a lead test at one year old. The screening is a simple finger prick. Lead poisoning can cause learning disabilities, hyperactivity and a host of behavioral issues. It is not detectable without a blood test.

You can watch the series of stories I did leading up to the HOI Toy test.

-NewsAnchorMom Jen


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