15 November 2011

Watch Out for Lead Content in Toys

Lean Content in Toys
Christmas is just around the corner and if you try visit department stores and hobby shops, you will see discounted and on-sale toys for children. It's understandable since children are always the recipient during toys and they expect one to be provided for them each December. It’s a common sight wherever you are to see kids rattling their gifts under the Christmas tree and counting the days until they finally get to open their gifts and play with their new toys.

But here's a BIG warning to parents: some toys, no matter how harmless they appear to be, can be dangerous to their children. In 2009, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) fined toy giant Mattel Inc. for US$ 2.3 million for its dangerous, lead-tainted toys which were made in China. More than 95 types of toys and up to 2 million units were recalled by Mattel as there was excessive lead content in paint.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as much as 890,000 US children aged 1-5 years old were found to have high levels of lead in their blood. Lead-poisoning with children is a serious concern because it can affect nearly every system in the body. It can cause damage to a child’s brain and nervous system and even slow the growth and development of a child as well as cause or hearing problems. At its worse, large amounts of lead can cause kidney damage, put a child in a coma, or even cause death.

Although there is a new consumer product safety law that took effect in the U.S. that makes it illegal to sell toys and other children's products if the lead content exceeds 300 parts per million – excessive lead content in toys remain to be a problem. Manufacturers, particularly of products from China are not that compliant with the law. So while parents can later on sue companies and their manufacturers for product liability – the damage has already been done to their child.

Here's a brief guide on how to avoid or watch out for lead in children's toys:
  • Aside from the presence of lead in the paint of toys, lead can also be found in plastic toys. Be careful with handling your child’s plastic toy as exposure to sunlight, air, and detergents can release lead dust.
  • Do not rely on do-it-yourself kits available to test your child’s toy for lead. It is not very reliable and only a certified laboratory can accurately test a toy for lead.
  • Be wary of toy jewelry as it often contains massive amounts of lead. Do not allow your child to put toy jewelry in its mouth to avoid lead poisoning.
  • If you suspect your child is exposed to lead – take away the toy suspected of being tainted with lead and see a doctor immediately.
Toys are supposed to bring joy, not tears and pain especially during Christmas. So be vigilant about the toys you buy for your child and immediately report any product which you suspect to contain excessive lead.