At this time of year, we hear several reports about lead in toys, electrical cords, strings of lights and artificial trees. Don't let exposures to lead ruin your Christmas.
Lead poisoning is very dangerous and every attempt should be made to reduce your exposure to lead hazards. Lead poisoning damages the brain and central nervous system, which can lead to learning disabilities, seizures or even death. Children are at greatest risk of exposure because they are more likely to touch things then put their contaminated hands into their mouths.
Lead may be found in the paint on some imported toys or in some plastics. The use of lead in house paint, children's products, dishes and cookware was banned in the United Stated in 1978; however, lead is still used overseas and may be found on some imported toys. Lead may also be present in certain plastics where it is used to soften the plastic and make it more flexible. As the plastic toy is exposed to sunlight, air and detergents the bond between the lead and plastics breaks down and forms harmful dust. If you think your child has been exposed to a toy containing lead, remove the toy immediately and ask your health care provider about obtaining a blood lead test on your child. There will be no visible symptoms of lead poisoning. For more information on toy recalls go to www.cpsc.gov or call 1-800-638-2772, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Electrical cords, artificial trees and lights can be another source of lead in your home. Manufacturers may use lead as part of the polyvinyl chloride (PVC) insulation around the wiring on strings of lights or the branches of artificial trees. Lead helps stabilize PVC so it doesn't crack or crumble with age, and it also acts as a fire retardant. To reduce the lead dangers in your home during the holidays wash your hands after hanging lights and decorations and if you own an older artificial tree and lights, replace them. When shopping for a new tree and lights, be sure to read the warning labels to determine if the products contain lead.
While there are many different sources of lead, the primary source of lead poisoning in children is still lead-based paint. There are do-it-yourself lead testing kits available; however, they are not very reliable and do not indicate how much lead is present.
Here are some ways you may reduce your family's exposure to lead: Place a doormat by all outside doors and remove your shoes at the door to decrease the chance of tracking in lead dust. Keep areas where children play clean and dust-free. Leave lead-based paint undisturbed if it is in good condition. Use lead-safe practices when removing paint, or hire a professional. Eat a balanced diet, rich in calcium and iron.
Have a safe and blessed holiday season.