The Consumer Products Safety Commission on Thursday may have hit a new high-water mark for defective and dangerous product recalls based on violation of the lead standard. On October 4 alone, the CPSC announced: the recall of about 150,000 bookmarks and journals that contain lead; the recall of almost 200,000 toy key chains containing high levels of lead; the recall of about 15,000 toy decorating sets that contain excessive levels of lead; the recall of almost 65,000 children’s toy tumblers that contain high levels of lead; the recall of almost 80,000 toy flashlights that contain excessive levels of lead; the recall of about 35,000 “Baby Einstein” Color Blocks that contain excessive levels of lead; and the recall of about 10,000 wooden toys that contain excessive levels of lead.
Lead is a highly toxic metal that was used for many years in products found in and around our homes. Lead may cause a range of health effects from behavioral problems and learning disabilities to seizures and death.
Lead is especially dangerous to children, for several reasons: babies and young children naturally put objects, and their hands, in their mouths, absorbing any lead that is on them; children’s growing bodies absorb more lead than adult’s; children’s brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead.
Children who ingest lead can be treated but, if not treated in time, they can suffer from damage to their brains and nervous systems, behavioual and learning disabilities, slowed growth, hearing problems and other diseases and death. In a tragic case in 2006, the CPSC recalled about 300,000 children’s bracelets containing lead that were implicated in the death of a Minnesota child. About 500,000 of the bracelets had been given away by Reebok as a “Gift with Purchase” of certain Reebok girl’s shoes. In that case, the bracelet was tested following the child’s death and found to be “99.1% lead.”
Toys, like those recalled on October 4, are a major source of lead danger to children, but not the only source. The U.S. Centers for Desease Control say that “Lead-based pain remains the most common source of lead exposure for children aged under six years.” Even so, the CDC recognizes that lead exposure of children often results from “items containing lead that had been brought into the home” . . . including “candy . . . and metallic toys and trinkets,” and that these exposures “can result in life-threatening” lead-levels in children.
The on-going risk to our children from lead-based paint in our homes, and lead in toys, remains. The EPA has enacted regulations to address the danger from lead-based paint in homes, and the CPSC is acting, together with the Chinese government, to reduce the risk of lead from toys and other products imported from China.
We have to hope that those efforts are working, and will continue to work although, ater reviewing the many recalls on October 4, its not clear that the effort to improve manugacturing standards is having an effect. In the meantime, parents can review information from the EPA about the dangers of lead to children here and on protecting their children from the dangers of lead here, and can contact the National Lead Information Center here or at 800-424-5323
For more information on this subject, please refer to the section on Defective an Dangerous Products.