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Legislature takes on toxic lead in kids’ toys

Toys should be safe. It is just common sense that the things we give to young children—and that almost certainly end up in their mouths—should not contain lead and other hazards.

So many parents and caregivers were shocked as literally millions of toys were recalled from stores across the country this year because of dangerously high lead levels. The recalls spanned plastic Elmo and Dora figurines, Thomas the Train wooden train cars, vinyl lunchboxes, spiral bound children’s notebooks, and children’s jewelry.

Lead is toxic even in small amounts and is especially harmful to young children, pregnant women and women of childbearing age. Even very low levels of exposure can result in reduced IQ, learning disabilities and other problems for children. Higher exposures can lead to mental retardation and even death. In 2006, a 4-year-old boy in Minnesota died from lead poisoning after ingesting a Reebok metallic charm with high lead content.

The recalls highlight the shortcomings in oversight of children’s products in this country. The federal agency charged with overseeing product safety, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, has only one employee to test suspected tainted toys for the entire country. One person covering hundreds of millions of toys.

Fortunately, Michigan’s legislature is taking steps to protect Michigan children from lead. In June, the Michigan House of Representatives passed four lead-related bills. The bills would limit the amount of lead to 600 parts per million (ppm) in children’s toys, child care articles, children’s jewelry and lunch boxes.  The bills are expected to be debated in Senate committees this fall.

“These bills are an important first step forward for children’s health in Michigan,” said Genevieve Howe, the Ecology Center’s coordinator for the Michigan Network for Children’s Environmental Health.  “We have known for centuries about the dangers lead poses to our health, and the Michigan Senate should not delay in passing these protections.” 

The Michigan Network for Children’s Environmental Health—a coalition of health professionals, health-affected groups, environmental organizations and others—is working to protect children from lead and other toxic chemicals.

What you can do

-Kate Madigan, Michigan Environmental Council
RELATED TOPICS: environmental toxins
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