Stay Vigilant about Lead in Toys, Jewelry, and Feeding Gear—

I had the honor to testify last week in support of a bill that would significantly reduce the exposure of Vermont's children to lead. I expressed parents' worries about lead in products, and the fact that there is no one place that lists or even tests the billions of children's products out there. The panel seemed surprised to learn that items that have been recalled in other states are still for sale in Vermont (and many other states). In fact, I was reading in Parents magazine the other day that it is even LEGAL in other states to sell recalled items. I stopped, and read this again. How exactly do recalls help protect our kids when there is no legal "teeth" behind them? I am perplexed.

At the hearing I listened to the testimony from two doctors, Dr. Best of the George Washington School of Medicine and Dr. Bruce Lanphear, pediatrics professor at Cincinnati Children's Hospital. They explained how new research shows even low levels of lead (blood levels lower than what is considered "safe" at 5 mcg/L )can lead to multiple problems for growing children, such as reading problems, behavioral and attention problems, school failure, and a decreased IQ. Dr. Lanphear said "we should not wait for the CPSC and the EPA" as they often are prompted to act by individual state action, and can't be counted on to lead the way.

Dr. Best shared that young children can have mouth to toy contact as much as 20 times per hour, and that lead levels less than 10 mcg/L can have life long negative effects. She made the astute comparisons of lead from children's products being proven as unsafe, just like we all know using cigarettes and alcohol during a pregnancy is as well. Dr. Best expanded on Dr. Lanphear's consequences of lead exposure to include crime, sleep disturbances and depression. She said that fetuses and babies from in utero to three years old are at the greatest risk, due to their rapid rate of development. Both of these doctors testified in Congress in support of a similar bill, but with all of the other problems our country is facing, it is not clear that any new legislation to protect our kids will be passed soon.

It was both moving and downright scary to hear these medical professionals discuss the ramifications of lead exposure on our kids. This is a societal problem, not just a problem of families and kids. Dr. Best called lead exposure a "disease of poverty". Everyone will see the effects of lead poisoning in one way or another, through the education system, the judicial system, decreased productivity and increased needs for social programs and taxes.

The bill will hopefully move to the Senate floor in the next week or two. I am hopeful, and want other states to tackle this issue to protect all of our nation's kids.

My take home message from all this is for parents not to forget out lead. Keep testing toys, and be skeptical about older toys in your child's daycare or school. Also, be very wary of any jewelry marketed to children, these have had numerous problems with high levels of lead.

Links for more information:

Here is some coverage of the hearing from our local TV station.

And here is a link to Parents magazine's list of the top recalled toys in 2008. It is a handy quick reference with pictures. Here also is the list from 2007.

Another thing to think about (as if we don't have enough!). Many recalled toys and children's items are still for sale on EBay or consignment stores. Here is an article about this problem, again from Parents magazine.

In the hearing the Illinois Department of Health was cited as having a website that is an excellent source for recalled toys and children's products. Visit it here.

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