Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Lead and toys - what to do
If you're like many parents, you have probably never really thought about lead. Of course, this recent toy recall probably has you surfing the Internet to find out which toys are on the list (see them here) and which ones you will have to get out of your home. As the father of a 2-year-old, I know it is not easy. My daughter is particularly fond of Dora, and my wife and I felt guilty as we removed a few of her toys late last night. It did surprise me though to learn that around 300,000 children a year still suffer from lead poisoning and the number is as high as 16 percent in some communities, especially impoverished ones, where diets rich in calcium, iron and zinc may be lacking.

The biggest culprit, as you might guess, is lead-based paint which was still used up until around 1978. Turns out if a child ate this paint, more specifically a pencil eraser-sized piece every day for 2 to 4 weeks, he or she could suffer from lead poisoning. Children are especially susceptible for a few reasons: First of all, they are more likely to actually eat paint. Also, their little bodies absorb lead at nearly 5 times the rate of adults, and lead affects the central nervous system of a developing body more so than an adult body.

There is a test (Watch Video) to check for lead poisoning, and it involves a finger prick to get some blood (ironically I would always distract my daughter with that same Dora doll when she was getting her blood drawn). If that level comes back high, then more blood is taken to confirm the lead intoxication. The key, though, is knowing whom to check. Often times, someone may develop symptoms long after the lead poisoning has taken place. That is too late - you would like to know before those symptoms ever develop.

Last night, my wife and I talked about getting our own daughter checked (and which toy we would take to distract her). The CDC recommends children get tested every year, especially between the ages of 6 months and 6 years. What about you? Are you planning on getting your child tested? Why or why not?
It's good to see you're giving information on lead poisoning and that kids are being tested for it before they enter school, or from a parent's request.Although homes are no longer painted with lead-based paint: do you think inspection rules will finally change, regarding children's toys & other items that are made in China?
Doesn't this give corporate America some sort of a message? Keep the jobs in American instead of sending them to China.
I am very distressed about the lack of quality coming in from China. American corporations have sold our safety so they can make millions off cheap labor and products in China. First, Americans stand pat and let their jobs get taken away and now Americans still buy products from a country that is poisoning our pet's lives and our lives. When the threat of death doesn't stop America's consumption of Chinese products, what will?
Dear Dr.Sanjay ~~~~~ It's an enormous problem throughout the world. In korea there was an example that imported toys contained heavy metal and recalled. It's regrettable that we couldn't make toys for kids by ourselves.... Very sadly, it is a matter of sincere regret that such accidents should happen so frequently. I'm single, But I'm worried about every kids health. this is concern to many parents. Going one step forward, the cathode-ray tubes found in personal computer monitors each contain between five and eight pounds of lead. Even the old, well-known industrial poisons, such as mercury, arsenic, and lead, still cause trouble... Alas,woe is me!! Thanks a lot for sharing important issue with us.
I don't think my health insurance plan covers this kind of testing. Unfortunately, unless there are obvious symtoms, this would be considered well-child or preventive care which is not covered by my insurance. The cost of a doctor visit and tests can easily exceed $200. I doubt if Matel would be willing to pay for this.
You do lots of stories about how to stay well, but you never seem to address the real problems most of us face when trying to access health care especially in matters of prevention.
To underinsured: my insurance hasn't covered all the testing we've done (we live in a house built in the 20's, with a toddler - ugh!), but the cost was more like $50, not $200. Ask your doc's office or the health department what it'll cost, it might be less than you think.

To Dr. Gupta: your numbers for lead ingestion look much too high. I've seen much smaller amounts quoted as causing neurological issues (decreased IQ, in particular) - but maybe your figures are for acute poisoning?
This is a disgrace, for over 50 years we have been getting these tainted toys from china loaded with lead and it's just now that somebody notices!?
I think the EPA has made it very clear that there are NO SAFE levels of toxins like lead, even chronic low levels can lead to health problems. Our children are bombarded from so many directions by toxins and now we have to worry about the toys they play with. JAMA has published numerious on the neurological effects, everything from I.Q. to ADD problems. The American Journal of Kidney Disease published lead causes hypertenison. Lead makes mercury 100 times more toxic. Harvard School of Public Health has published the connection to high lead in bones to eye problems. I feel is that its alarming that so few doctors have any knowledge in this area or toxicology training.
"Lead paint is illegal for interstate commerce but can be produced and sold in the same state." As of 2003, I don't think anyone has known or done anything about this loop hole. I was shocked to find this out, it was in 2003 we bought test kits from home depot to see if this rumor was true since we had a house built in 1995 and sure enough the "test swips" were positive
I think it may be more prudent to check for body burden for toxins like lead,especially those with out insurance. Urine poryphin testing has been used for decades in industry to monitor toxins like lead and is now available for approx $115.00
Dr. Gupta -

Most children are not lead-poisoned because they "eat" lead-based paint. Older homes are often filled with leaded dust that comes from impact surfaces (windows and doors) that rub together and deteriorate the paint. Children that are crawling or learning to walk and grabbing onto all available surfaces get this dust on their hands, and then when they eat or put their fingers in their mouth, they ingest the lead and eventually their blood-lead levels rise. (This is not to say that children eating lead-based paint chips is unheard of; it's just not the main route of exposure in children.)

Underinsured - Check with your local health department or childhood lead poisoning prevention program. They may have free blood-lead testing available.

Thought you should know the story behind another recall of children's juice at Walmart made in china that never made the news last year:

Last year an Atlanta based company, In Zone Brands, who makes children's juice beverages intentionally sent bad expired juice into the market. The owner, Jim Scott, admitted last year to his staff that he had intentionally sent into retail at Walmart over 1,800,000 bad / expired juices to be sold in the stores under the "Tummy Tickler" juice brand. He apologized to the staff because he lied to them at first saying it was a labeling error and people found out he lied about it and started leaving the company to go to work other places when they found out. He had to admit it in order to retain his staff. He said he sent bad expired juice into the market because he had overbought and he didn't want to have to take the loss on his company's finances and he apologized to the staff. He got away with sending the bad juice into retail by re-labeling each of the bottles with new expiration dates that were extended by a year past their original expiration date. He was caught when Mom's peeled off the label and found a second older expiration date on the bottle. Hundreds of moms called into the company to complain that their children were getting sick after drinking the juice. Eventually when one child went to the emergency room and the parents called the juice buyer at Walmart, Jill Elias, to complain the product was re-called by Walmart. IN ZONE just claimed to Walmart it was a labeling error and that the juice was fine. This happened after many, many of the "Tummy Tickler" juice packs had already been sold. No one ever did anything about it and this unethical man, Jim Scott, is still making and selling children's beverages to Walmart today bringing them in from China. Can your organization call Walmart to investigate this or some other group to do something about this? This man should not be allowed to sell children's products and Walmart should be held accountable for buying from this type of unethical beverage supplier. At the very least, it should be made known somehow to the public so Mom's know not to trust this brand "Tummy Tickler" made by In Zone Brands.
I am glad you are talking about this. My wife and I have kids, we have an online kids store and also a parenting blog. We are very concerned about all the recalls and so are all the parents we talk and interact with. Over the past years the CPSC has been cut with only 100 or so inspectors for the whole U.S. We need to do more to protect ourselves and kids. What to do? It may cost more, but how can you put a price tag on our kids safety? We need more scrutiny of outsourced goods and perhaps until we feel these companies have more control over their products a change in spending habits to service oriented or memorable gifts. At the very least we parents need to not take for granted what they are buying their children are safe, and we need to take a closer look at what we are buying for our kids. I know I will.
Being elated with the Nov '07 arrival of my first great grandchild, I went about preparing a box of baby items from various local stores. Nearly everything is made in China, Thailand, or Pakistan. When the Consumer Org announced a recall in Fisher-Price baby bibs(which was in my box), it caused me to ask: What if the dye in those bibs can also be found in other baby clothes, etc. being manufactured in China and sold in the U.S. Do we need to buy metal detectors to scan baby items now? This is very frightening?
Do you think the rise in the incidence of autism has anything to do with the massive influx of the lead in imported toys?
Dr. Gupta I saw your report on TV this morning re lead paint in toys. Also, mercury in fish. As the head of a family with severe mercury poisoning I strongly disagree with the philosophy that people should eat x amount of fish/week. Rather everyone should be 1st getting tested for toxic substances & based on their test results their doctor should make a recommendation as to how to proceed with their treatment, including how much fish they should be consuming.

Everyone in my family has severe mercury poisoning. Except myself - I did not consume fish. BUT I do have a mouth full of mercury fillings. Most of my fillings were done about 40 yrs ago.
Since the US companies decide to make toy in China or any other countries, we need to apply our regulations and rules before the toys are imported. These third world countries simly do not have our standards or regulations. We need to take some responsibilities.
We are told the lead level is dangerously high, I would like to know exactly how high they are? Can kids get intoxicated just by touching them or by biting them?

I remember several years ago, all the kids here, including my son, were using crayons which were not lead free. I never heard any complaints but did notice that had been changed. The point is: can we have some objective ideas here: how long the US has had regulation on lead levels? Is this really a news?
I think this is an example of lack of regulation and responsibility on the side of the manufactures. It is easy to blame on the workers who have no idea about your regulation. We have to remember we are dealing with developing countries, such as China. It is simply corruption from both sides, very much like Enron.
If we want to benefit from the low price goods, we better sharpen up our inspection skills and be dependent on ourself rather than to take chances.
I am the mother of a 3 year old boy with autism who has no words at all. I am extremely careful with his diet, vitamin regimin and therapies to keep him detoxified. I not only have toys, but in Early Intervention, the therapists brought in bag after bag of toys that I will not know about now. With 1 in 97 boys in NJ being diagnosed it is an emergency that we find the causes of this epidemic, which alot of people think is biological with an environmental link as well--LEAD??? Thanks for your information and I will be getting my son tested this week!!
I believe we had enough experiences of bad quality from dictator nation, china. Now it's time to teach them that democracy can produce better quality overall. World's biggest population is never in news, who knows what is going on inside and what is being hidden to pass on to us. They are growing on our money so they better provide quality for our future generations.
This is such an important issue. Here in South Africa we had a scare recently when ranges of toys from a large manufacturer had to be removed from toy stores.

We have a severe lack of knowledge here when it comes to lead poisoning. Many people in rural areas have no idea about the existence of such a threat. Toys often come from dubious sources with no control regarding the paints used in the production process. Without education, parents won't even know that they should take their kids to be tested. It is a frightening situation. Thanks for writing about it.
What about lead paint in toys manufactured 5,10,15 & 20 years ago. The media should follow up with the toy companies on this issue and include older toys in the recall if they should fail.

Laraby, DO
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