Lead in Toys – How to Keep Your Baby Safe

By Talyse Broogbay

Every responsible parent knows to keep cabinet doors locked so that young ones don’t have access to dangerous chemicals, but what about lead, a toxin found in many common children’s toys? How do you know if your child’s toys contain lead and what can you do to minimize their risk of exposure to this harmful substance?

Lead is a toxic metal that can have devastating effects on the mental and physical development of children. The brain and nervous system of children younger than six years old are the most at risk for lead poisoning. Even low exposure levels can produce damaging effects ranging from impaired growth and hearing, to problems with posture and behavior.

High levels of lead exposure can cause deafness, blindness, convulsions, or in rare instances, even death. Even without severe effects, children exposed to lead are more likely to experience difficulties with reading and vocabulary, attention and focus, and fine-motor coordination.

So how does lead make its way into the products that consumers buy for children? Lead is used in manufacturing in paint and plastic used to make children’s toys. Paint used in houses, on products sold for children, and on dishes has been banned from containing lead in the United States since 1978, but this regulation has not reached some countries that still export products to the US.

In those countries it is still legal to utilize lead in the production of plastic, even when the plastic is used to make children’s toys. The lead acts as a softener to make plastic more flexible, which allows it to return to its original shape. The breakdown of the chemical bond between lead and these plastics forms lead dust, a known health hazard.

You can visit your State Department of Health’s Lead Hazard Product Recall Website for information concerning toy recalls. You will also find a comprehensive list at the US Consumer Product Safety Commission website.

There are home testing kits offered that are designed to test household items, toys, soil, and dust for lead content, but these do-it-yourself kits are not recommended as reliable by The State Department of Health and the Federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Lead screening can help identify children with blood lead levels that may be dangerous. Infants that play with older toys (antique toys, toys passed down through generations, or toys made before the ban on paint with lead) and toys made in other countries may be at greater risk.

Before you buy new or used baby toys, make sure the toys that you intend to purchase do not appear on the recall list. You can even do some research about the country in which the toy is manufactured. Some stores now have information on file compiled to trace the country of origin for the toys that they sell.

You can also inspect toys that your child already plays with for chipping and peeling paint, the number one source for lead poisoning in children. Be careful when choosing colorful jewelry and toys, especially those imported from other countries.

Keeping your baby safe is a parent’s primary concern. Baby Toys Galore offers a huge selection of developmental and just-for-fun toys for baby, including many made with organic products. Baby Toys Galore encourages parents and grandparents to keep baby safe by staying informed.