It used to be that only parents who lived in dwelling built prior to 1978 had to worry about their children being exposed to lead paint. Then in 2007 Mattel, the largest toy manufacterer in the world, announced that they were recalling 10.5 million toys because of lead based paint.
Lead is toxic if ingested by young children. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, as many as one out of 11 children in the United States have high concentrations of lead in their bloodstream. Lead gets into the human body in a number of ways, primarily when people touch surfaces that have been painted with lead paint. Lead contamination in children can cause a variety of health problems, from headaches and hearing problems to brain damage and behavioral problems.In children, lead poisoning can cause irreversible brain damage and can impair mental functioning. It can retard mental and physical development and reduce attention span.
Children can be exposed to lead in numerous ways. If they live in a dwelling built prior to 1978, the paint in the home will be high in lead. Eating paint chips is one way young children are exposed to lead. It is not the most common way that consumers, in general, are exposed to lead. Ingesting and inhaling lead dust that is created as lead-based paint “chalks,” chips, or peels from deteriorated surfaces can expose consumers to lead. Walking on small paint chips found on the floor, or opening and closing a painted frame window, can also create lead dust. Consumers can also generate lead dust by sanding lead-based paint or by scraping or heating lead-based paint.
Lead based paint used in the manufacter of the toys that they play with is the other main exposure-and for many children the primary exposure. The primary methods of transfer of lead paint in toys to our children include touching lead paint surfaces and then putting their fingers in their mouths.
All children should be screened for lead poisoning. Because the early symptoms of lead poisoning are easy to confuse with other illnesses, it is difficult to diagnose lead poisoning without medical testing. Early symptoms may include persistent tiredness, irritability, loss of appetite, stomach discomfort, reduced attention span, insomnia, and constipation. Failure to treat children in the early stages can cause long-term or permanent health damage.
The current blood lead level which defines lead poisoning is 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood. However, since poisoning may occur at lower levels than previously thought, various federal agencies are considering whether this level should be lowered further so that lead poisoning prevention programs will have the latest information on testing children for lead poisoning. Their are effective treatments for lead poisoning available once a child is diagnosed with lead poisoning.
Lead poioning prevention includes:
1. Have the painted item replaced.
You can replace a door or other easily removed item if you can do it without creating lead dust. Items that are difficult to remove should be replaced by professionals who will control and contain lead dust.
2. Cover the lead-based paint.
You can spray the surface with a sealant or cover it with gypsum wallboard. However, painting over lead-based paint with non-lead paint is not a long-term solution. Even though the lead-based paint may be covered by non-lead paint, the lead-based paint may continue to loosen from the surface below and create lead dust. The new paint may also partially mix with the lead-based paint, and lead dust will be released when the new paint begins to deteriorate.
3. Have the lead-based paint removed.
Have professionals trained in removing lead-based paint do this work. Each of the paint-removal methods (sandpaper, scrapers, chemicals, sandblasters, and torches or heat guns) can produce lead fumes or dust. Fumes or dust can become airborne and be inhaled or ingested. Wet methods help reduce the amount of lead dust. Removing moldings, trim, window sills, and other painted surfaces for professional paint stripping outside the home may also create dust. Be sure the professionals contain the lead dust. Wet-wipe all surfaces to remove any dust or paint chips. Wet-clean the area before re-entry.You can remove a small amount of lead-based paint if you can avoid creating any dust. Make sure the surface is less than about one square foot (such as a window sill). Any job larger than about one square foot should be done by professionals. Make sure you can use a wet method (such as a liquid paint stripper).
4. Reduce lead dust exposure.
You can periodically wet mop and wipe surfaces and floors with a high phosphorous (at least 5%) cleaning solution. Wear waterproof gloves to prevent skin irritation. Avoid activities that will disturb or damage lead based paint and create dust. This is a preventive measure and is not an alternative to replacement or removal.
5. Survey your Child’s toys. Remove and dispose of any toys that have been recalled.
These lists can be found here:
You may also consider buying toys manufactered in the United States or Europe where safety standards are high. Due to low costs 80% of toys sold in the USA are made in China. One of the ways that China keeps costs low is to use cheaper lead-based paints. Though they make promises to improve health and safety after the huge recalls, many factories eventually go back to the cheaper materials because of the huge profits.
Here are links for toys made in the United States:
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