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By Darrell Miller
Around the holidays as well as other times, toys are serious business. A recent discovery which found that lead contamination is widespread is causing parents and grandparents to panic. Some of the most trusted names in the toy industry have had to recall favorite toys that have been around for ages. Although lead has gotten all the press lately, other toxins found in toys and household products are sure to be next month’s topics.
December 2007’s issue of Consumer Reports concluded that lead can be found in a large variety of items used everyday. Dishware, jewelry, glue stick caps, vinyl backpacks, vinyl lunchboxes, children’s tea sets, vinyl mini blinds, brass keys, baby bibs, clothing, crayons, and chalk were among those products tested. A fairly safe hypothesis is that those items that are brightly colored and made overseas are likely to contain lead, as it is an inexpensive pigment. Other household items that are not normally associated with toys are made with lead because of its malleable and stabilizing qualities. These items, which include brass keys, are often given to young kids as entertainment, while parents are unaware that they contain surface lead. Any item that a young child handles often or puts in his or her mouth should be tested for lead. A shocking discovery found that inexpensive children’s jewelry imported from China contains as much as 90 percent lead. Waste in the environment and use of lead additives is a major contributor to contamination in the United States. The widespread use of battery-operated toys has made dumping and recycling of batteries a major concern. Because lead never deteriorates or disappears, the EPA believes that the primary source of lead exposure for most children is from deteriorating lead-based house paint, dust from this paint, and its residues in soil. Not only can lead be inhaled and ingested from paint residue, but it can also come from food and beverages. Drinking water has been shown to contain lead if lead solder or lead parts were used in the plumbing. Lead is unable to been tasted, seen, or smelled.
Lead poisoning in children has been found by the EPA to be a major environmental health problem in the US. Children who appear healthy can have extremely dangerous levels of lead in their bodies. Lead is dangerous because it is a neurotoxin causing damage to the brain and nervous system, leading to behavioral and learning problems, hyperactivity, slowed growth, hearing problems, and headaches. In adults, lead toxicity can lead to complications with pregnancy, fetal neurodevelopment abnormalities, male and female reproductive problems, high blood pressure, digestive and nerve disorders, and problems with memory and concentration. If you think that you child has been exposed to lead, you should have he or she tested immediately. The EPA recommends that all children be tested when they are at the age of one or two.
Pediatricians also suggest the children under the age of six be tested every year as young children are at the greatest risk from lead toxicity. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children who associate with other children who are lead toxic be tested each year, no matter there age. The AAP also recommends taking nutritional supplements of calcium and iron for toxic children as a way to prevent lead buildup and reduce body burden. Lead inhibits calcium and replaces it in the bones, therefore both calcium and iron can reduce the storage of lead in tissues. Increasing the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables consumed daily is also suggested, as they contain vitamin C, which helps to harness the lead and escort it out of the body. A multiple vitamin with C or an additional vitamin C supplement is also recommended by doctors as a preventative measure. Calcium, iron, multiple vitamins and vitamin C can all be found at your local or internet health food store.
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