Toy safety

Many children's toys are painted or decorated, and sometimes the paint that is used contains some level of lead. What is the danger of lead ingestion, and what harm can it do to your child?

Lead is a naturally occurring element in our environment, but it is a known neurotoxin. That is, it destroys nerve tissues. Young children, toddlers, and infants are all especially susceptible to lead toxicity, as their brains and central nervous systems are still developing. Exposure to lead can disrupt this delicate process.

Long-term effects of lead exposure include:

  • learning disabilities
  • attention deficit disorders
  • speech, language, and behaviour problems
  • impaired hearing
  • mental retardation
  • kidney damage
  • poor muscle coordination

If levels of lead soar too high, a child can actually be poisoned and have acute symptoms, such as seizures, vomiting, constipation, abdominal pain, coma, and even death.

So, what can you do to keep poisonous toys out of the hands - and mouths - of children?

  • Avoid buying products that may contain lead. Read all warnings on the packages of children's products. If you don't see a lead warning listed, but you suspect there may be a risk of lead exposure, either ask the manufacturer about the product or just don't buy it.
  • Do not give children toy jewellery that has painted parts. It doesn't matter what material it's made of, you can't tell which pieces may contain lead. If your child has toy jewellery, don't allow them to put the pieces in their mouth.
  • If your child has toys that you suspect may contain lead, put them in the garbage. Don't recycle them where they could end up in the hands of another child.

If you think your child may have come into contact with a toy that contains lead, have your doctor test your child for lead exposure. There are kits available to test toys and other products for lead, but the results of these home tests have been unreliable.

Amy Toffelmire