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Get the lead out

With recent reports of lead-tainted toys, many parents are worried about the safety of their children’s playthings. And rightly so: Lead poisoning can lead to learning and hearing disabilities, behavioral problems and delayed development. In 1978, the toxin was banned in this country in dishes, cookware, paint and products marketed to children, but it’s still used in other countries and is found in some imported toys. Kids are exposed when they put lead-tainted toys in their mouths or touch the toys, then put their fingers in their mouths. No level of lead in blood is safe, so keep these points in mind:

  • Know which toys have been recalled. Visit the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Web site at or the CDC’s lead recall site at
  • If your child’s toy has been recalled for lead, throw it out and call his or her pediatrician. Your child may need a blood test to determine the level of exposure and whether treatment is needed. And don’t be tempted by do-it-yourself lead-testing kits. They aren’t always reliable. If you want a toy tested, call a lead-testing professional instead.
  • Be watchful. Most kids with lead exposure have no symptoms. Very high levels of the toxin can cause fatigue, irritability, muscle and joint pain, headaches, stomach pain, cramps, appetite loss, constipation, vomiting and seizures.
  • Check your paint. Tainted toys often grab headlines, but lead paint in older homes is the main source of lead poisoning in children. Contact your state health or housing department for guidance on whom to call to test your home’s paint. Don’t attempt to remove lead paint yourself.