5 On Your Side

Toy Recalls Due to Lead Are 'A Real Concern'

Posted November 1, 2007
Updated November 4, 2007

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— To young Maya Yenner, toys are just fun. But with the massive toy recalls and the approaching holidays, parents want to know if they’re safe.

“It’s sad. It is. The problem is so big it's hard to get your hands around it,” said Betsy Yenner, Maya’s mother.

In the past few months, companies have recalled more than 22 million toys because they contained unusually high levels of lead, which can cause brain damage or even death if young children ingest it.

Ed Norman, the head of North Carolina’s Lead and Child Care Program, said the danger is real.

“You know kids intentionally are playing with the toys. They're mouthing them, so it is a real concern. It's not something to be taken lightly,” Norman said.

Concerned parents are calling his office, he said.

“The most common question I'm getting is: ‘How can I know if these toys in my house are a problem?’” Norman said.

There's no easy answer. Most big manufacturers now promise they diligently test toys. Mattel/Fisher Price posts on its Web site a "commitment" that the paint undergoes a "mandatory 3-stage safety check." Many smaller, off-brand toymakers don't test, however.

“There is no complete assurance. If it is a painted product, if it's a product that's made in an Asian country that you don't know is from a reputable company where you know they have done testing, it would raise a red flag to me,” Norman said, as he walked the aisles of a local toy store.

Alan Cason, owner of AbraKIDabra Toys in Cary, said he gets calls from parents asking questions and looking for toys not made in China.

“You can't make a blanket accusation that everything that's made in China is bad,” Cason said.

Finding toys not made in China isn’t easy, because 80 percent of toys sold are made there. Cason understands the concern, he said, but believes reputable manufacturers are taking action.

“They're all parents. They're all concerned about safety issues, and they've assured us that they're on top of the situation,” Cason said. “They're doing the best they can to control every aspect of manufacturing and quality control.”

Even reputable companies have faced questions. A Consumer Reports investigation found plenty of toys still on store shelves contained dangerous amounts of lead.

Despite the company’s "safety commitment," the blood pressure cuff in a Fisher Price medical kit was one of them. Testers also found high lead levels in tea sets, vinyl backpacks, jewelry and dishware.

Nancy Nord, the acting chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, testified about the agency's lack of resources and said only one person tests toys.

"He basically spends his time doing small-parts testing, drop testing. Bob’s our small parts guy,” Nord said.

Some parents bought inexpensive home lead tests kits, but, last week a federal government study concluded the tests simply weren’t reliable.

“You basically get what you pay for,” Norman said. “It's not worth much, the science in those things. Basically, they give you false positive and false negative readings, so you just can't rely on them.”

Professional lab tests would cost more than the toys are worth, Norman said. Plus, the tests usually destroy the toys. Norman and other experts said the better option is for people to have their children tested.

“The more important test that I try to reiterate, every time somebody calls, is to test the child,” Norman said. “If you're concerned about your child having been exposed, it will show up in their blood stream very quickly – within a few weeks."

The federal government recommends that all children have their blood tested for lead at the ages of 1 and 2 with a simple heel or finger stick.

Norman said the greatest lead health risk for children is still lead-based paint in older homes because the lead concentration is so high.

70 Comments

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  • moi_oc Nov 5, 2007

    Lead poisoning is still a large problem - people who have ingested large amounts of lead cannot reason. Others cannot read or write at a level that their peers can. Others cannot focus on one issue. Some express rage and anger in comments section of news sites. Still others manifest all of those symptoms.

  • jkuwalik2 Nov 5, 2007

    wolfncub, sorry if you don't see the relevance of the discussion

  • FKASM Nov 5, 2007

    http://www.wral.com/golo/blogpost/2002651/

    there the blog :)

  • FKASM Nov 5, 2007

    ok enuff with the Roman empire thing I made a blog for it go there please... :)

  • jkuwalik2 Nov 4, 2007

    SailbadTheSinner, I have never thought about the Christianity thing, it is possible. Then again, it is all speculation since it happened roughly 1600 years ago. Without any scientific records from the time, it is difficult to tell.

    I would be willing to pay more to buy safe items for my child. Pay a little more now or alot more later. What does a lifetime of treatment due to lead poisoning cost????? I want my kid to be able to tie his own shoes and remember his own name when he grows up. Older generations say that they were exposed to it reguarly when they were young but then these are the same people who did not see the value in manufacturing and marketing personal computers because they did not think anybody would ever buy them or have use for them. They laughed at Steve Jobs when he tried to get funding for Apple Computers. Who's laughing now?

  • strolling bones Nov 4, 2007

    until we stop exporting raw materials..then importing finished products we faces these risks. We need to bring back manufacturing jobs to the us and pay the extra.

  • Offshore Nov 4, 2007

    Thanks for allowing all the stuff once manufactured in the USA go overseas. I suppose the big companies are still making big money even with all the recalls, considering what they pay to manufacture things in China. Who's steering this ship?

  • SailbadTheSinner Nov 4, 2007

    jkuwalik2,

    About the fall of the Roman empire, it’s my personal belief that the root cause was Christianity. The pagan Roman religion(s) before Christianity typically adopted the local deities when they conquered new territory. The new gods were usually similar to Roman gods and were just merged into the local pantheon.

    After the rise of Christianity, the new Christian leadership forced the new territories, and older provinces too, to become Christian. That caused a LOT of strife in a very large empire. Then, there was the incessant in-fighting among the various Christian factions.

    The bottom line was that the empire fell apart.

    Yes, the Christians have a LOT to answer for ....

    Back to the subject, lead. It hard to believe that any one in authority would even suggest having our kids tested instead of enforcing testing of the toys.

    By the way, there’s a Roman document that speaks of the dangers of lead. Those dangers, at least, have not changed....

    STS

  • jkuwalik2 Nov 4, 2007

    sorry about the typos in the last post, you know what I meant though

  • jkuwalik2 Nov 4, 2007

    none of the big dept. stores seem to be able to provide country of orrigin lists about their products. Actually it would seem they are unwilling to since if you sell anything to Isreal you must verify the country of oigin to them. They refuse any items from any country they have diplomatic problem with. When I worked at IBM the country of origin cert. drove me nuts when I had to send products to Isreal.

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