Lead and Children

January 31, 2008

lead in toys

Since I have two little kids in my home I’ve been more and more concerned about lead’s effect on them especially with the recent toy recalls and new studies concerning lead in toys and its negative effect on children.

Lead was long used in metal and paint and surprisingly is still used in toys and children’s items like metal jewelry and vinyl backpacks. I had suspicions about some of my old toys that my Mom recently found and passed down to my kids, so I ordered a lead test kit online and performed a test on the three items pictured.

Can you guess which one(s) contain lead?

the toy on the left is part of a bunch of old pre-Hot Wheels cars I used to play with. They were the poor-man’s kid’s Matchbox cars and were sold in the supermarket. I figured if the metal didn’t contain lead the paint surely did.
Nope. Safe. Good. Have fun kids.

The middle item is a painted horse made of steel probably from the 1950s. The results? its FULL of lead. The solution in the kit will turn a turn a light shade of brown if the item contains 1-3 parts per million, brown if it contains 10 ppm.
The solution immediately turned BLACK, indicating the item contained over 50 parts per million!
My son had an attachment to it for a few days without my knowledge, but at least he didn’t put it in his mouth.

The item on the right? I found my daughter licking it to clean the mirror. Yup. It’s also full of lead. That night she complained of a headache for the first time. Great. According to the EPA’s website on lead, that’s a symptom. Hope it was just a coincidence.

Why all the fuss? Sure, I could be overreacting… but the effects of lead exposure isn’t like other toxins like pollution, plastic, synthetic hormones, etc. Scientists mostly agree that lead exposure on a developing brain has a DIRECT effect on learning ability, and many agree that it leads to behavioral problems like hyperactivity.

More bad news? Now some experts believe that lead exposure over one’s life has a direct effect on mental function even later in life.

From Wired:

In brief, the scientists found that the higher the lifetime lead dose, the poorer the performance across a wide variety of mental functions, like verbal and visual memory and language ability. From low to high dose, the difference in mental functioning was about the equivalent of aging by two to six years.

The full article is here.

Our kids are at a much lower risk than we were since lead in paint and gasoline was fazed out in the late ’70s, but you just need to be careful…. unless your kids have brain cells to spare. Mine don’t!



  1. matt,
    you are such a good writer.
    yes. spare the brain cells…


  2. Lead is my second favorite childhood metal, only second to Mercury. Shit, I remember breaking open car batteries with hammers to get at the precious lead plates. Then we would melt them down over a fire to make lead ingots. Recently it has become fashonably cool to pick on Lead. What about all the fishermen out there who handle Lead sinkers all weekend long. I never hear anyone talking about that. I have never seen a warning sign at the bait and tackle shop.

  3. Jeff- Thank God I never did that with batteries, but I can’t count how many times I played with mercury!

    And how many time did we eat pheasant or wild turkey and have to spit out the lead birdshot!? That explains my why I can’t even remember my own kids’ birthdays.

  4. Amy-

    As a child therapist (or whatever it is you do) 🙂 Do you here much about lead?

    Do you remember those toys in the picture?

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