Lead paint and other toy dangers

6 tips for buying, and keeping, safer toys.

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Nothing scares parents and grandparents like hearing “lead paint in toys.” In 1978, it became illegal for toys to contain lead paint. So, there’s no excuse for it to show up in toys… ever. Since the big Mattel toy recall in 2007, toymakers have been actively recalling products that contain lead; and, The Consumer Product Safety Commission posts recalls online when they occur.

Antique toys and collectibles passed down through generations may contain unsafe levels of lead, but, as you heed recalls and ensure your grandchildren are playing with toys appropriately, let prudence, not panic, be the watchword.

What’s lead poisoning, anyway

 Lead is a heavy metal used as pigment. According to the Centers for Disease Control, it can become toxic if lead-based paint dust forms and is ingested in solid form or inhaled in powder form. By far, children’s most likely exposure to lead comes from house paint applied before 1978. Touching lead paint will not transfer the metal. However, if the paint is loose or peeling, and a child is repeatedly moving hands to-and-from the mouth, there can be a slight chance of transference.

The CDC defines lead poisoning as a level above ten micrograms per milliliter of lead in blood. In 1990, that was only a “level of concern.” Today, children have an average of 2.3 mcg/ml. So, it’s unlikely that casual exposure can create real risk. But remember, no lead is allowed in toys. Hence, the toy recalls flooding the airwaves.

What’s a grandparent to do?

Grandparents.com offers you these tips to enhance toy safety for your grandchildren:

1. Assume they’re safe. 

The problem with Chinese toys resulted from flawed manufacturing systems, not their being made in China — no matter what anyone says. Toys undergo extensive testing and toymakers depend on consumer safety to build and maintain their brands’ reputations.

2. Check toys.

If a toy is old, worn, has paint chipping off it, has loose parts: Take it away. Whether the paint is made with lead, or not, you don’t want kids ingesting any of it. We all know how hard kids can be on their toys. Checking them regularly for signs of wear is a good idea.

3. Choose age-appropriate toys.

Most reported toy-related injuries occur when children are too young for the specific toy with which they are playing. When older children are in the house, younger siblings may be attracted to their toys. A toy designed for children ages 4-plus poses a small-parts hazard to children younger than 4.

4. Pick up the toys.

Even better, get your grandchildren to pick them up. The most oft-cited, toy-related injuries result when people trip over them. Not to be glib, but this can be a real problem.

5. Focus on real dangers, like small parts.

Over the past 15 years, toymakers have conscientiously focused on such things as small parts and age-appropriateness. Beware of toys such as marbles and balloons. Young children are likely to put these toys in their mouths.

6. Supervise play.

This is particularly key when younger children are around. Accidents happen in a flash, and kids often do the unexpected. If you don’t want to be in charge of the youngest grandchildren, saying no is perfectly okay.

Toy safety is a legitimate concern. Who doesn’t want to protect their children and grandchildren? Toys sold in the U.S. are subject to the highest safety standards. And, this new concern will only lead to stricter regulations and heavier enforcement. One tip: It’s a good idea to temper concern with common sense.

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