Christmas is finally upon us, and dozens of presents are under the Christmas tree waiting to be opened by eager, enthusiastic children. While most of the blogs I write focus on lead paint in homes, I consider this an important time to touch base on the lead paint in children’s toys. While lead paint was banned from being used in house paint and on products marketed to children in the United States in 1978, lead paint is still widely used in other countries. The imported toys are not checked for lead and do not have lead paint regulations when entering the United States. Older toys that were produced before the ban may also contain lead paint. This is an important topic to discuss, as lead dust is invisible to the naked eye and is impossible to detect. Children are constantly putting their hands and toys in their mouths, making the ingestion or inhalation of lead extremely easy. Buying toys made in the United States is a good way to avoid lead contamination this Christmas.
While lead paint was banned in the United States on products marketed to children, there is no ban on the use of lead in plastic, only regulations. Lead allows plastic to be soft and flexible, and also helps to stabilize it. When plastic is exposed to sunlight and air, however, the bond between the lead and plastic breaks down and can form lead dust. If you believe lead is present in any of your children’s toys, remove them immediately. There is no accurate way to test for lead in a toy, since the do-it-yourself kits are unreliable at detecting low levels.
The fact that lead is still present and being put into children’s toys is frustrating, but the only way to avoid a problem is to be proactive and educate yourself on where to look. Surround your children with lead-free toys this holiday season.