Lead Hazard Awareness Project: Lead in Consumer Products

Child playing with toys / photo: istock

Where is Lead found in Consumer Products?

Items that contain lead include candy, folk and traditional medications, ceramic dinnerware, children’s jewelry, clothing ornaments, children’s toys, key chains and other metallic or painted objects. Other consumer products, including vinyl, plastic, and rubber products, as well as metallic products fabricated from lead or lead containing alloys, may expose families to lead.

  • Vintage and imported toys can be hazardous sources of lead
    • Children may be exposed to lead—a well known health hazard. Toys that have been made in other countries and then imported into the United States or antique toys and collectibles passed down through generations put children at risk for such exposure.
      • Paint: Lead may be found in the paint on toys. Lead was banned in house paint, on products marketed to children, and in dishes or cookware in the United States in 1978. But it is still widely used in other countries and therefore can still be found on imported toys. It may also be found on older toys made in the U.S. before the ban.
      • Plastic: The use of lead in plastics has not been banned. Lead softens the plastic and makes it more flexible so that it can go back to its original shape. It may also be used in plastic toys to stabilize molecules from heat. When the plastic is exposed to substances such as sunlight, air, and detergents the chemical bond between the lead and plastics breaks down and forms dust.
  • Artificial turf
    • Tests by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (NJDHSS) of artificial turf playing fields in that state found these fields contain potentially unhealthy levels of lead dust. The initial tests were conducted on a limited number of playing fields. NJDHSS sampling of additional athletic fields and other related commercial products indicates that artificial turf made of nylon or nylon/polyethylene blend fibers contains levels of lead that pose a potential public health concern.
  • Candy
    • Lead has been found in some consumer candies imported from Mexico. Certain candy ingredients such as chili powder and tamarind may be a source of lead exposure. Lead sometimes gets into the candy when processes such as drying, storing, and grinding the ingredients are done improperly. Also, lead has been found in the wrappers of some imported candies. The ink of these plastic or paper wrappers may contain lead that leaches into the candy.
  • Folk medicine
    • Lead has been found in some traditional (folk) medicines used by East Indian, Indian, Middle Eastern, West Asian, and Hispanic cultures. Folk medicines can contain herbs, minerals, metals, or animal products. Lead and other heavy metals are put into certain folk medicines because these metals are thought to be useful in treating some ailments. Sometimes lead accidentally gets into the folk medicine during grinding, during coloring, or from the package.
    • People selling a folk medicine may not know whether it contains lead. You cannot tell if a medicine has lead by looking at or tasting it. Consuming even small amounts of lead can be harmful.
      • Lead has been found in powders and tablets given for arthritis, infertility, upset stomach, menstrual cramps, colic and other illnesses.
      • Greta and Azarcon (also known as alarcon, coral, luiga, maria luisa, or rueda) are Hispanic traditional medicines taken for an upset stomach (empacho), constipation, diarrhea, and vomiting. They are also used on teething babies.
      • Greta and Azarcon are both fine orange powders with lead content as high as 90%.
      • Ghasard, an Indian folk medicine, has also been found to contain lead. It is a brown powder used as a tonic.
      • Ba-baw-san is a Chinese herbal remedy that contains lead. It is used to treat colic pain or to pacify young children.
      • Daw Tway is a digestive aid used in Thailand and Myanmar (Burma). Analysis of Daw Tway samples showed them to contain as much as 970 parts per million (ppm) of lead. The Daw Tway samples also contained high arsenic levels, as great as 7,100 ppm.
  • Toy jewelry
    • If swallowed or put in the mouth, lead jewelry is hazardous to children.
    • Just wearing toy jewelry will not cause your child to have a high level of lead in his/her blood. However, small children often put things in their mouth. If you have a small child in your household, make sure the child does not have access to jewelry or other items that may contain lead.

What can you do to protect yourself?

  • Buy and keep only toys made in the U.S., Canada, or Europe after 1990. Never buy toy jewelry from vending machines or dollar stores, or candy from Mexico.

More info from the Center for Disease Control.

 

 

Region/State: