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Fear of lead leads to recalls
Health advice
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China’s goods have come under scrutiny in recent months after toxic chemicals were found in exports ranging from food to toothpaste to pet food. This past week, distributors in Australia and New Zealand announced a recall of Chinese-made blankets found to contain high levels of formaldehyde, a potentially cancer-causing preservative that gives a permanent press effect to clothes. Recalls in the U.S. have included Chinese produced tires as well as toys and food products.
Obviously, some items are more hazardous than others, but the use of lead-based paint on toys would certainly rank at the top, especially toys made for small children whose initial contact with just about anything revolves around the bite, taste test. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services still describes childhood lead poisoning as “the most important environmental health risk for young children.”
The United States has worked diligently to eliminate lead in products, such as paint, plumbing pipes, ceramics and gasoline. The number of U.S. children with elevated blood lead levels has declined dramatically during the past three decades because of public health efforts.
A poison that targets the body’s nervous system, lead can accumulate in soft tissues and bone over time resulting in many health effects. Children under the age of 6 are especially vulnerable because their brain and nervous system are still forming. Even very low exposure can result in reduced IQ, learning disabilities, attention deficit disorders, stunted growth, impaired hearing and kidney damage.
At high levels of exposure, a child may become mentally retarded, fall into a coma and even die.
While a child’s intestine may absorb more than 50 percent of a dose of lead, an adult’s intestine will absorb only about 10 percent. Lead poisoning in adults can increase blood pressure and cause fertility problems, nerve disorders, muscle and joint pain, irritability and memory problems.
Most adults who get lead poisoning get exposed on the job and if they don’t remove and wash contaminated clothing, tools and skin at work, they bring it home to their families.
When a pregnant woman has an elevated blood-lead level, that lead can be transferred to the fetus, since lead crosses the placenta. In fact, pregnancy itself can cause lead to be released from bone, where lead is stored — often for decades — after it first enters the blood stream. The same process can occur with the onset of menopause.
Recent research published in the New England Journal of Medicine provides new evidence that there could well be harmful effects at levels of exposure lower than what has been the accepted level for when adverse health effects occurred. In other words, science is now telling us that there is no level of lead exposure that is safe.
A child who gets enough iron, calcium and vitamin C in her diet will absorb less lead. It’s also important to wash your child’s hands frequently.
If you have any reason to suspect your child has been exposed to a toy containing lead, remove the toy immediately and check for photos and descriptions of recalled toys. Most children with elevated blood lead levels have no symptoms so the only way to tell is to have a blood test. Testing for lead poisoning in children may be done at your pediatrician’s office or at the health department.
If lead is found in a child’s blood, treatment options vary, from boosting a child’s nutrition, to using a medication that binds to the metal in the blood to help the body clear it faster.
Listed below are companies and their products that have been recently recalled:
1. TOBY N.Y.C. recalled Toby & Me jewelry sets that include a necklace, bracelet, earrings and a ring. The sets sold from August 2006 to May for about $8 at T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and A.J.Wright, and were packaged in pink gift boxes with “TOBY & ME” printed on the front. For a picture of the set or more information, go to:
2. Buy-Rite Designs Inc. of Freehold, N.J., recalled Divine Inspiration charm bracelets that have silver-colored charms and clear and pink beads that hang from a chain. The bracelets sold for $1 at Dollar Stores and other retail stores from March 2004 until August. Buy-Rite’s Web site is:
3. Schylling Associates recalled Thomas and Friends, Curious George and Other Spinning Tops and Tin Pails because of lead in yellow and red paint used on these toys. The tops and pails sold from $6 to $13 between July 2001 and July 2002. For this and other information go to
4. Martin Designs’ SpongeBob SquarePants Character Address Books with the following product numbers:  
UPC 80773002260, SpongeBob SquarePants Journal
UPC 80773075501, SpongeBob SquarePants Journal
 UPC 80773007505, SpongeBob SquarePants Address Book
For more information go to:
5. Pre-school toys from Mattel’s Fisher-Price Division that include Dora the Explorer, Big Bird, Elmo, Sesame Street and Giggler Gabber. Toys may have a date code between 109-7LF and 187-7LF marked on the product or packaging. Manufactured in China. These toys were sold at stores nationwide from May to August for between $5 and $40. For a complete listing of toys, go to
6.  Mattel Inc. “Sarge” toy cars sold in retail stores nationwide from May through August for $7 and $20 (depending on whether they were sold individually or in sets). The toys were manufactured in China and more information may be found at
7.  Delta Enterprise Corporation of New York, N.Y. recalled Lov’s “Europa” Natural Color Cribs made in Indonesia and sold at Toys R US. For information, go to:
For other recalls, visit online at

Ratcliffe works with the Coastal District Health Department. Her office is in Hinesville. For more information, call her at 876-2173.
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