Many parents first became aware of lead in toys in June 2007 when more than a million Thomas and Friends wooden railway toys made the news after a recall because the surface paint contained dangerous amounts of lead. Next, lead paint was found in more than 83 types of Fisher Price Toys.  Since then, hundreds of toys have been recalled because of dangerously high levels of lead.  Just this week “Big Rex and Friends”, a cloth book for babies, was recalled because of dangerously high lead levels.  
Lead is a naturally occurring metal.  It is abundant, inexpensive and easy to work with (lead can be melted over a camp fire).  Lead and lead compounds have been used since prehistoric times for a variety of purposes including wine storage, paints, ceramics, solder, pipes, gasoline, batteries, glass, fine crystal and even cosmetics.  
But in this case, natural does not mean safe.  Lead is highly toxic metal.  It is a powerful neurotoxin that can when ingested accumulates in soft tissues and bone and over time can have drastic effects on the nervous system.  Lead can enter the body through direct contact with mouth, nose, and eyes, and through breaks in the skin.
Symptoms of lead poisoning range from fatigue and behavioral problems to learning and cognitive disabilities to brain damage and kidney damage and even death.
Lead is especially dangerous to children because of their smaller body size and developing nervous systems.  Even low levels of lead exposure have been associated with measurable changes in children’s mental development and behavior, including hyperactivity; deficits in fine motor function and hand-eye coordination; slowed reaction time; and lowered IQ.  The most recent research shows that even blood lead levels once considered safe are in fact hazardous.  There are no safe levels for lead exposure. 
Since 1980, federal and state regulatory standards have helped to reduce the amount of lead in consumer products and occupational settings. Today, the most common sources of lead exposure in the United States are lead-based paint in older homes, contaminated soil, household dust, drinking water, lead crystal, and lead-glazed pottery. Lead poisoning from toys is very rare, that’s why the presence of lead in so many popular, mass produced toys came as such a shock.
Currently, lead levels in toys may not exceed 300 ppm.
The United States Consumer Procduct Safety Commission maintains a list of recalled toys. If your child has a toy on this list, take it away from your child immediately.  If the toy contains lead, get your child’s lead levels tested. This is a simple blood test that can be done at a doctor’s office.

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James Roswold
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James Roswold is a Kansas & Missouri personal injury, workers comp, and medical malpractice attorney.