Watch out for lead toys and toy jewelry this holiday season

The Happy Prince had a lead heart, which may be why he started acting crazy and giving away all of his gold and jewels. And speaking of gifts and jewelry, you should protect your children from being exposed to lead in toys and toy jewelry gifts which they may get for Christmas. Keep in mind that lead is imperceptible to the eye and nose. It is also innocuous to the touch, which leaves taste. Children tend to suck on, chew, and swallow toys and other objects in their mouths, which can result in lead exposure and lead poisoning.

Unfortunately, most children with high levels on lead in their blood do not have any symptoms. Moreover, a blood lead test performed by a certified laboratory is the only means to determine whether a child has unsafe levels of lead. As the CDC puts it, “there is no safe level of lead in blood.”

Sources of lead

·         Toys

Lead can be found in plastic toys. The use of lead in plastics has not been banned. When plastic is exposed to sunlight, air, detergents, and other agents, its chemical bond with lead is broken down and forms dust. Lead can also be found in the paint on toys. Lead use in house paint, dishes and cookware, and children’s products was banned in the U.S. in 1978, but not in other countries – which is why you want to be especially suspicious of imported toys. Antique toys or toys passed down through generations are also a potential risk for lead exposure.

·         Toy jewelry

Wearing toy jewelry will not harm a child, but swallowing very well may. Two children died in 2003 and 2006 respectively after swallowing pieces of jewelry containing lead. Hand-to-mouth activity is part of the normal development of children.

·         Artificial turf

As the turf ages and weathers, lead is released in dust that could then be ingested or inhaled, and the risk for harmful exposure increases.

·         Candy

Lead has been found in some consumer candies imported from Mexico, made with chili powder, tamarind, and other suspect ingredients that may have been dried, stored, and ground improperly, allowing lead to found its way into the candy. Lead has also been found in the wrappers of some imported candies.

·         Folk medicine

Lead has been detected in traditional remedies used by East Indian, Indian, Middle Eastern, West Asian, and Hispanic cultures. And made with herbs, minerals, metals, or animal products. Alchemy would be a better term to refer to this ‘medicine,’ though; lead and other heavy metals are added because of their imagined beneficial properties. Acupuncture is okay, though.

·         Sindoor

Sindoor is the generic name of a product used as a cosmetic in certain Hindu and Sikh religious ceremonies, though it might be used as a food additive as well. Tests performed by the Illinois Department of Public Health indicated this product contained very high levels of lead, leading the CDC to issue a warning on December 17th, 2007.

·         Water

Although measures taken during the last two decades have greatly reduced exposures to lead in tap water, lead still can be found in some metal water taps, interior water pipes, or pipes connecting a house to the main water pipe in the street.



·         If you believe your child has been exposed to a toy that contains lead, remove the toy immediately and inform your doctor, who can help determine if a lab blood tests is needed, and can prescribe treatment too.

·         Make sure small children do not have access to jewelry or other items that may contain lead.

·         See a physician if you think your child has eaten lead-containing candy.

·         Avoid powders and tablets given for arthritis, infertility, upset stomach, menstrual cramps, colic and other illnesses, including Greta and Azarcon, Ghasard, Ba-baw-san, and Daw Tway.

·         Test tap water for lead.

·         Drink or cook only with water that comes out of the tap cold.

Related: Safe Toys and Gifts Month: Which are 2015’s Ten Worst Toys?