5 On Your Side

Lead Concerns Aren't Restricted to Toys

Posted November 20, 2007

— One of the biggest worries for parents this holiday season is whether the toys they buy have dangerous levels of lead in them. But lead is in a lot of other things people probably have in the home.

When should people be concerned? The short answer, according to experts, is when it can be ingested.

Take old, peeling, lead-based paint. It's often in houses built before 1979, and it's the main cause of lead poisoning in children.

That’s why inspectors recently checked a house in Oxford before it sold. The "gun" they use for testing can check lead levels in all kinds of surfaces.

“We check all walls. We check the ceiling. If the floor's painted we do the floor, but most importantly, friction surfaces - the windows and doors,” said Britt Wester of Matrix Health & Safety.

Wester said windows and doors are most important to check. Since they open and close, the paint can rub off and create dust that children can ingest. Many vinyl mini-blinds made in mid-1990s also have lead.

“What makes the mini-blinds such a problem is they sit in the windows. They're exposed to the sunlight. They start to degrade and will produce a film as they degrade that basically has a lot of lead dust in it,” Wester said.

The danger is a child could ingest it. That's why toys are such a concern.

“In terms of the relative nature of the hazard, certainly lead-based paint on old homes that's starting to come off is a bigger hazard. But, you know, kids intentionally are playing with toys. They're mouthing them so it is a real concern. It's not something to be taken lightly,” said Ed Norman who heads North Carolina’s Lead Program.

Five on Your Side asked Wester to check out some random toys and baby items. Two registered higher lead levels than the Consumer Product Safety Commission allows.

Wester said given the readings, he would take both away from a child. The problem for parents is there’s no way to test every toy, and, according to Wester, there’s no consistency in which kinds of toys test positive and which do not.

Wester also checked several serving dishes. Two of the three tested positive, but Wester and other experts said they don’t see them as a serious threat.

“The likelihood that enough lead would leach out in the time you're using it is extremely low,” Wester said.

The sink they tested was loaded with lead, but was of little concern.

“Every time we test those, they're pretty much off the chart. And again, it's in the glazing and unless it's cracked and peeling and in bad shape, it's not a problem,” Wester said.

As long as lead isn't coming off a product - either peeling or in dust - where it can be ingested, and it can't be chewed off, the experts said it's not a major concern.

A number of WRAL viewers have asked about pet toys. Several that 5 on Your Side tested did not have lead. However, others do. An expert from N.C. State's Vet school said pets aren't as sensitive to lead as children are, although they can experience neurological problems from it.


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  • Supie Nov 22, 2007

    "helped us evolve"? you mean like some of us have lower IQs because we ingest lead, mate, and our children have lower IQ's? Have you been studying with Prof. Lamark? If two people with broken arms mate their children aren't born with broken arms.

  • Made In USA Nov 22, 2007

    I recently picked up a cat toy that had painted feathers and a little painted mouse all tied on a stick with a string. My cat loves it. However, he began chewing on it and I didn't think much about it until he began to vomit and not eating. That's when I read the label and it clearly states to throw away if the cat begins chewing on it. So I did, and his illness has subsided.

  • denverbob26 Nov 22, 2007

    grant, yes, everything we have been exposed to in the past has played a part in our eveolution ncluding lead, atural radiation, mercury, etc. I would not expect someone displaying a UNC logo to understand this though. Please go back to being PC and offending everone with you PCness.

  • grant Nov 21, 2007

    Helped us evolve. Lol. Yea, Im sure we would never have walked upright without any of the elements in the table that are toxic. What-ever man, you go eat some lead. I'll stick to stuff that doesnt kill you even if i never evolve away my little toe.

  • denverbob26 Nov 21, 2007

    There is traces of lead in just about everything, it is a nurturally occuring element and has been in just about everything humans have been exposed to for as long as humans have been evolving on this planet. Small traces are harmless and may have helped us evolve into the animals we are today

  • blackdog Nov 21, 2007

    ...parents please don't allow your child to gnaw on the wheel weights on your tires...

  • howdiditgettothis Nov 20, 2007

    Does anyone in the community have access to test items brought in by the public -- or would one have to pay someone to test it for you?

    Of course lead in anything is a concern! Our govt. is way past needing to start limiting (or better yet checking/regulating/testing) imports.